New tests conducted by Soroka University Medical Center on Israel’s former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon have revealed significant brain activity, according to a team of brain scientists. To the surprise of Ben Gurion University professors, Israeli doctors, and international neurologists, Sharon responded to a series of groundbreaking tests recently developed by Professor Martin Monti, from the Departments of Psychology and Neurosurgery at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Sharon, who has been in a vegetative state since 2006 due to a massive stroke, underwent a special brain imaging MRI scan on Thursday, January 24 to assess the extent and quality of his brain processing.
According to an official statement from Ben Gurion University, “scientists showed Sharon photos of his family, made him listen to his son’s voice, and used tactile stimulation to see how his brain responded to the stimuli.”
To their astonishment, the scientists recorded significant brain activity in specific brain regions during the two hour test, “revealing appropriate processing of these stimuli.”
However, Professor Monti indicated that while other tests offered encouraging signs, “the evidence does not clearly indicate whether Sharon is consciously perceiving this information.”
Dr. Ilan Shelef, head of Medical Imaging at Soroka University Medical Center, added that the research being conducted on Sharon was at the forefront of brain science research, and served as the main motivation for purchase of a state of the art MRI machine by Ben Gurion University and Soroka Medical Center.
According to Professor Alon Friedman of the Zlotowski Center for Neuroscience at Ben-Gurion University, these new methods must be made available to the large number of patients in Israel. “Knowing what sensory channels are intact in these patients is crucial for the family and the treating team to stimulate and interact with them.”
There are approximately 200 patients in Israel who are hospitalized in vegetative states.
Sharon, who will turn 85 years old next month, has been hospitalized for seven years in a vegetative state. After suffering a massive stroke in 2006, he was admitted to the Hadassah Ein Karem hospital in Israel’s capital. Later he was moved to Tel Aviv’s Tel Hashomer Hospital, where he remains comatose and connected to a respirator.
Sharon’s family wishes to employ these innovative techniques not only for the benefit of the former prime minister, but for other families in similar situations, according to Dr. Tzvi Ganel of Ben Gurion University, who initiated the project.