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In 2006 Dr Adrian Owen and his team made medical history They discovered a new realm of consciousness somewhere between life and death which they called the Grey Zone The people who i. This book Into the Gray Zone A Neuroscientist Explores the Border Between Life and Death by Adrian Owen piued my interest because I have thought a great deal about just what it means to be conscious Every now and then we see stories in the media of people who have been in a vegetative state for years The case of Terri Schiavo comes to mind immediately mainly because of the very public legal battle which took place I can t help but consider and attempt to imagine what being in that state feels like What DOES it mean to be conscious In its simplest definition consciousness is described as having an awareness and being able to feel and think In this fascinating book Adrien Owen through his incredible research inspires readers to examine what it means to be conscious and whites the difference between a brain and a mind His research with patients in a vegetative state raises uestions about our widely held definition of consciousness Adrian Owen is a neuroscientist who has been working for decades with patients who have been described as being in a vegetative state or non responsive due to brain injuries or degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer s What he believes he has discovered is not without controversy nevertheless through his research and experimentation he has found that in about 20% of cases the patients are actually in a space between full consciousness and brain death a space he calls the gray zone These patients often seem oblivious to the world around them and are viewed by medical professionals as being incapable of thought Dr Owen strongly disagrees He believes that their intact minds are adrift deep within damaged brains and bodies And he set out to prove just thatThis book is not at all daunting to read It is not filled with medical jargon or written in the language of a professional journal article And lest you think that Dr Owen writes only of his successes he also documents his frustrations and failures Through years of trial and error and with the fortunate advancement in technology Dr Owen pioneered a new techniue using fMRI machines functional magnetic resonance imaging to attempt to assess brain function To help the reader understand exactly how the process worked he presented a number of case studies Initially he pulled together a control group of healthy people and came up with an interesting way to elicit the same responses in the brains of all of his subjects He needed something which would light up the same areas in all brains being tested He and his team brainstormed and they thought of two scenarios in the first scenario the subjects were asked to think about and imagine playing the game of tennis Using the fMRI Dr Owen was able to see that when his subjects thought about playing tennis the part of the brain which is situated near the top of the head which is known as the premotor cortex lit up every time The second scenario he used with his healthy subjects was to ask them to imagine or visualize themselves walking through their homes This time the part of the brain associated with spacial memory lit up in each subjectTaking the information he collected using his healthy subjects Dr Owen was prepared to attempt the experiment with patients in a vegetative state Dr Owen needed to be able to demonstrate that just as in healthy people he could use the fMRI machine on damaged brains to catch them in the act of making a willful decision A number of his patient case studies have stuck in my mind The first patient he tried the techniue on was named Carol Carol was a 23 year old woman who had been hit by two cars as she attempted to cross a busy street and while she was distracted by her cellphone She had been in a vegetative state for months Placing her under the scanner Dr Owen asked her to imagine she was playing tennis He then asked her to imagine she was walking around her home and to his surprise and delight the premotor cortex and the spatial memory parts of her brain lit up just as they had in his healthy subjects To carry the experiment one step further and in an attempt to communicate with a patient Dr Owen and his team devised a list of uestions to ask the patient and would instruct the patient to imagine playing the game of tennis to signal a yes response and to imagine walking through his hometown signal a no response Dr Owen attempted this experiment with a patient named Scott a man who had been in a vegetative state for the 12 years since he had been involved in an automobile accident Scott was presented with clear yes or no uestions Are you in any pain and Do any of your body parts hurt right now are examples of uestions used in Scott s case Scott was instructed to imagine playing the game of tennis if his answer was yes and to imagine walking through his home if his answer was no The spatial memory part of Scott s brain lit up signaling to Dr Owen that he was not in any pain Are these successful experiments proof that a gray zone does exist in some patients who have been considered non responsive by the medical community I found the case studies presented in this book to be exciting and promising but Dr Owen has been criticized by others in his field Some of his detractors believe he is reading too much into the data he has collected and is providing false hope to patients and families who have already been traumatized Dr Owen believes that at the very least his findings have encouraged doctors nurse and family members to view these patients with empathy and this empathy may increase the likelihood of a partial recovery I personally feel this breakthrough his exciting But I also have to admit that the case studies provided were also disturbing to me For so long medical professionals have believed that they could say with a degree of certainty that patients in a vegetative state were not conscious or aware of their surroundings Dr Owen s research makes it clear that thinking of these patients as unresponsive is far from certain in at least 20% of the cases As I often do when reading these types of books I attempted to imagine how these patients must feel being essentially trapped inside of their own bodies That reminded me of the age old fear of being buried alive and that s an awful thought I also feel that Dr Owen s research presents moral ethical and legal challenges and because of this society will be forced to try to answer some very difficult and important uestions what makes a life valuable or worth living What IS the difference between a brain and a mind And what does it mean to be conscious Plenty of food for thought

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Into the Gray Zone

Body and brain hearing everything around them experiencing emotions thoughts pleasure and pain But now through Dr Owen's pioneering techniues we can talk to them and they can talk bac. Into the Gray Zone by Adrian Owen is about his journey as a neuroscientist looking for indications of consciousness in patients typically diagnosed as being in a persistent vegetative state the gray zone The book step wise takes us along for the ride as Dr Owen works with increasingly better technology and then works with his research team and colleagues to use that technology in a smarter and smarter way since time analyzing gray zone patients is precious in ways than one We also get to know the patients and importantly their loved ones The book tackles uestions such as What is consciousness How and when does consciousness arise and How can you possibly recognize consciousness in a patient in the gray zone The book also addresses how communication might be established if consciousness is discovered The story is well constructed and also leaves the reader pondering even bigger uestions such as the impact to society of direct brain computer communication technology potentially being commonly used in the future A great read

Adrian Owen Å 5 Summary

Nhabit it are freuently labelled as irretrievably lost with no awareness or sense of self The shocking truth is that they are often still there an intact mind trapped inside a broken. This book is well worth the read The author cleverly tells his own progressive career path and life story surprisingly revealing much about himself and his feelings beyond the scienceAnd the science is interesting and the brain scanning for those who are deemed or may be in the gray zone the core of what this book describes The neuroscience of the operating brain and especially within those who are in coma unconscious and all the intermittent layers of possible in between and scaled for activity It s scary and absolutely ominous that in the past like in burial habits that there has been strong assumptions upon those with no reactions as being close to death or unaware which have been entirely wrong He gets into tangents of history and specific cases which were very illustrative Perhaps I wanted to hear about possible optimum treatment Regardless it has made me think about powers of attorney to a greater degree that the one I hold have And also when around the unconscious and non responsive I would and will always talk to them by name and declare in each detail exactly whatwhere and how touch or sound or involvement is occurring The mapping of the brain as this author surveys consistently that is very difficult work He explains the white matter well here Better than most in his field for sure But I would have liked about the scanning maps and less about his constantly moving and job tenure traveling details The last sections which contained his thought summations upon the possible future in this field 2 stars


10 thoughts on “Into the Gray Zone

  1. says:

    Please read you don't have to 'like' it but really this could save your life or the life of a loved one If you are 100% paralyzed from a brain injury whether it is from disease or an accident you are very likely to be diagnosed uite uickly as being in a vegative state The next step is to remove the life support And you're dead But say your body is dead but your mind is 100% alive and well in that heavy iron Di

  2. says:

    This book Into the Gray Zone A Neuroscientist Explores the Border Between Life and Death by Adrian Owen piued my interest because I ha

  3. says:

    Adrian Owen is a world renowned neuroscientist who has conducted research involving cognitive abilities in people with traumatic brain injuries In his newly published book Into the Gray Zone Owen writes about the cutting edge procedures he and his colleagues have developed in order to try to establish whether or not patients who ha

  4. says:

    It is so rare that a book comes along that sparks my interest and intellect such that it is like this one I have found myself uoting parts to friends taking pics of pages and sending them off and pondering who I will bless

  5. says:

    This book is well worth the read The author cleverly tells his own progressive career path and life story surprisingly revealing much about himself and his feelings beyond the scienceAnd the science is interesting and the brain scanning for th

  6. says:

    GNab I received a free electronic copy of this book from Netgalley Adrian Owen and Scribner in exchange for an honest review Thank you all for sharing your hard work with meAdrian Owen outlines and details his work with patients suffering neurological damage due to accident or illness over the last 29 years th

  7. says:

    This review and others can be found on BW Book ReviewsThe gray zone A thing that no one has really heard of but everyone would know once they hear me say vegetative state That's what the gray zone is People who are somewhat responsive or completely non responsive to the world around them It's something most people are familiar with the topic that sparks so many debates about the right to life or the right to die with dig

  8. says:

    Admittedly non fiction books about anything medical seem to be a siren song for me; I find them boundless fascinating Having read and loved Being Mortal The Remedy and My Own Country I was immediately drawn to this one Adrian Owen a neuroscientist embarked into a career to explore learn and hopefully discover what occurs

  9. says:

    Into the Gray Zone by Adrian Owen is about his journey as a neuroscientist looking for indications of consciousness in patients typically diagnosed as being in a persistent vegetative state the gray zone The book step wise takes us a

  10. says:

    An incredibly detailed and fascinating insight into the world of patients in vegetative states of mind and how the author and a team of specialists seemingly discovered a way to communicate with them The idea th