A recent New England Journal of Medicine study says that electroencephalogram (EEG) machines can pick up brain signals that could hint at consciousness in unresponsive patients who’ve suffered brain injuries. Detecting these super faint signals isn’t new — previous work using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) has spotted them, too. But EEGs are portable and cheaper than fMRI machines. Out of the 106 patients the researchers worked with, an EEG was able to detect signals in 16 of them. The study’s authors hope their advancement will help medical staff identify those with the best hope of recovery so their families can make more informed decisions about life support.
[This story originally appeared in print as "Building Blocks: Spotting the Signals."]