Seeing Consciousness: The Promise and Perils of Brain Imaging in Disorders of Consciousness

A Neuroethics Seminar Series Event

September 29, 2015

About this event

Modern neuroimaging technology such as functional MRI can now sometimes detect conscious awareness in patients who otherwise appear unconscious. Such a finding may or may not have major implications for how we treat patients with disordered consciousness (e.g. coma, the vegetative state, the minimally conscious state).

How reliable are these technologies? What are the implications of detecting consciousness in someone who looks and acts unconscious? Can and should this information be used to treat patients and manage expectations of caregivers? If so, how? The use of technology to detect consciousness raises a host of questions not only pertinent to medicine and science, but also to law, philosophy, ethics and beyond – questions at the heart of what it means to be conscious, and to recognize consciousness in others.


James Bernat, MD, Director of the Program in Clinical Ethics, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center

Joseph Fins, MD, Chief of the Division of Medical Ethics, Weill Cornell Medical College

Joseph Giacino, PhD, Director of Rehabilitation Neuropsychology, Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital