1 in 5 vegetative patients is conscious. This neuroscientist finds them.

This week, Big Think is partnering with Freethink to bring you amazing stories of the people and technologies that are shaping our future.

  • What if vegetative patients are conscious? Neuroscientist Adrian Owen, author of Into The Gray Zone and a professor at Western University in Canada, is using fMRI technology to try to reach the people who may still be aware of their surroundings.
  • Consciousness has traditionally been assessed by asking patients to respond to verbal commands. Through brain imaging, Dr Owen and his team were able to prove that these tests are inadequate, and it's estimated that 20 percent of vegetative patients are conscious but are physically incapable of communicating it.
  • "Communication is the thing that really makes us human," says Dr. Owen. "If we can give these patients back the ability to make decisions, I think we can give them back a little piece of their humanity."
Keep reading Show less

Crows are self-aware just like us, says new study

Crows have their own version of the human cerebral cortex.

Credit: Amarnath Tade/ Unsplash
  • Crows and the rest of the corvid family keep turning out to be smarter and smarter.
  • New research observes them thinking about what they've just seen and associating it with an appropriate response.
  • A corvid's pallium is packed with more neurons than a great ape's.
  • Keep reading Show less

    Ever wonder how LSD works? An answer has been discovered.

    UNC School of Medicine researchers identified the amino acid responsible for the trip.

    Credit: Motortion Films / Shutterstock
    • Researchers at UNC's School of Medicine have discovered the protein responsible for LSD's psychedelic effects.
    • A single amino acid—part of the protein, Gαq—activates the mind-bending experience.
    • The researchers hope this identification helps shape depression treatment.
    Keep reading Show less

    Depression and suicidal ideation reduced after psychedelic usage

    Another study confirms the positive effects of psychedelics on mental health.

    Photo: Daniel Patrick Martin / Shutterstock
    • Two studies found reduced rates in depression severity, suicidal ideation, and experiential avoidance four weeks after taking psychedelics.
    • With hundreds of millions of dollars in investment flowing into psychedelics companies, a renaissance in the field is occurring.
    • Researchers hope these findings will lead to better therapeutic modalities for mental health disorders.
    Keep reading Show less

    How meditation can change your life and mind

    Reaching beyond the stereotypes of meditation and embracing the science of mindfulness.

    • There are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to what mindfulness is and what meditation can do for those who practice it. In this video, professors, neuroscientists, psychologists, composers, authors, and a former Buddhist monk share their experiences, explain the science behind meditation, and discuss the benefits of learning to be in the moment.
    • "Mindfulness allows us to shift our relationship to our experience," explains psychologist Daniel Goleman. The science shows that long-term meditators have higher levels of gamma waves in their brains even when they are not meditating. The effect of this altered response is yet unknown, though it shows that there are lasting cognitive effects.
    • "I think we're looking at meditation as the next big public health revolution," says ABC News anchor Dan Harris. "Meditation is going to join the pantheon of no-brainers like exercise, brushing your teeth and taking the meds that your doctor prescribes to you." Closing out the video is a guided meditation experience led by author Damien Echols that can be practiced anywhere and repeated as many times as you'd like.
    Keep reading Show less
    Quantcast