Little Hope of Recovery for Ariel Sharon Despite Hopeful Signs From Israeli Leader

State-of Art Scans Offer Doctors Better Look Peek Inside Brain

‘Positive Indication’: Ariel Sharon, shown here in a 2005 photo, still has significant brain activity despite a severe stroke in 2006, doctors say.
getty images
‘Positive Indication’: Ariel Sharon, shown here in a 2005 photo, still has significant brain activity despite a severe stroke in 2006, doctors say.

By Reuters

Published January 29, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

The state-of-the-art brain scans that allowed doctors to look inside the head of former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon show how advances in neuroscience are forcing a rethink of what it means to be in a long-term coma.

Neurologists who performed the tests said they hinted that Sharon, who has been in a coma since suffering a stroke in 2006, may have a degree of consciousness and be able to hear sounds or make out pictures.

“It’s encouraging to find these signs because it opens up the possibility of some meaningful communication,” said Paul Matthews, a professor of neurology at Imperial College London.

Until recently, he said, it had been assumed that many comatose patients diagnosed as being in a “vegetative state” had no meaningful awareness of their surroundings.

Yet progress in the use of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanners - machines that measure brain activity by detecting changes in blood flow - and in reading the signals they give has begun to change that view.

Compared with other “vegetative state” patients who have had similar tests and been described in scientific papers, Sharon’s responses were very faint, said Martin Monti, a cognitive psychologist from the University of California Los Angeles, who co-led the American-Israeli team that scanned Sharon’s brain.

There is little or no likelihood of a rapid recovery by Sharon, a former general, hawkish defence chief and leader of the right-wing Likud party who suffered his stroke weeks after leaving Likud to found a centrist group to pursue peace with the Palestinians.

But with more tests and research to devise a way for him to signal whether he is processing external information, it is possible that he, like others, could one day respond to questions about his state of mind and whether he is in pain.

“If it turns out that these signals are more robust, then there’s no doubt that we could use things like brain-computer interfaces (to communicate),” Monti told Reuters in an interview as he travelled from Israel back to the United States.

AWARENESS DETECTED

The science behind such possibilities has made significant advances in recent years, allowing some patients previously thought to be completely unaware to show they are in fact conscious and able - with help - to communicate.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love. http://jd.fo/f3JiS
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.