Posts Tagged disorders of consciousness

Needed: Objective measures of subjective well-being

This piece was contributed by Dr. Syd Johnson. Learn more about her here and here.

Disorders of consciousness (DOC), including the vegetative state/unresponsive wakefulness syndrome, and the minimally conscious state, have long fueled legal and ethical debate, and are also a source of considerable anguish for families forced to make life and death decisions on behalf of their loved ones. Particularly contentious are decisions concerning the withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment for patients who have a poor prognosis for further recovery. Implicit assumptions about the value of life in a state of impaired consciousness often inform decisions, but persistently unanswered questions about the quality of life of persons with DOCs remain a source of uncertainty and distress. Yet, despite the importance of quality of life in end-of-life decision making, there are no validated methods for assessing quality of life in this population. A significant obstacle to doing so is the inability of these patients to communicate. Read the rest of this entry »

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Meet a Member: Dr. Syd Johnson

UnknownDr. Syd Johnson is a neuroethicist/bioethicist/philosopher at Michigan Technological University, where she teaches ethics and bioethics, and singlehandedly holds down the neuroethics fort in the snowy wilderness of northern Michigan. Prior to her appointment at Tech, she was a Research Fellow in Neuroethics at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and received her PhD in philosophy from SUNY Albany. Her research interests are primarily in the ethical implications of brain injuries, especially those at opposite ends of the severity spectrum: mild TBI, specifically sport-related concussion, and disorders of consciousness. Syd has been a vocal advocate for radical, neuroprotective reforms in youth sports such as football and hockey, and thinks one of the important roles of bioethicists is to stir up debate about health-related issues of importance to the public. To that end, and despite her training as a philosopher, her interests in neuroethics tend towards real-world problems and concerns rather than metaphysical speculation. On the other hand, Syd really likes to think about zombies, and the ethical and metaphysical implications of the impending zombie apocalypse. Read the rest of this entry »

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Dr. Grace Lee’s interview with Adrian Owen

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I visited Western University in London, Ontario during the middle of their snowy winter in February 2013. The purpose of my visit was to meet Dr. Adrian Owen, a neuroscientist and Canada Excellence Research Chair in Cognitive Neuroscience and Imaging, laid the groundwork for leading-edge research showing residual brain function in brain-injury patients who are unconscious. My first conversation with Dr. Owen was on the telephone when he was interviewing me as a candidate for my current postdoctoral fellow position. I work in close collaboration with Dr. Owen for my research on neuroimaging and disordered states of conscious at the National Core for Neuroethics in Vancouver. From my diligent background reading on Dr. Owen, I began to appreciate him for his accomplishments as an international (British) scholar and as a celebrity scientist. Needless to say, I went from feeling nervous planning my visit to being star struck at our first handshake. My anxiety dissolved when I saw how approachable and unassuming he was. Here I will share my conversation with Dr. Adrian Owen.

Can you describe the direction of your research from the beginning?

I started my academic life as a neuropsychologist. As an undergraduate, I was very fascinated by the whole idea that you could work out what a particular part of the brain does by examining a patient who has lost that function in that particular part of the brain and working out what they can’t do – and that is the central of neuropsychology. Read the rest of this entry »

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