Researchers have found that scans that look for signs of metabolic activity in specific areas of the brain could help doctors predict whether a person in a vegetative state will regain consciousness.
The findings were published Tuesday in the journal The Lancet. Researchers in Belgium tracked about 120 subjects — diagnosed as either minimally conscious, locked in, or unresponsively wakeful (vegetative) — for at least one year. When images of the brain were taken with a positron emission tomography (PET) scan, the researchers accurately predicted 74 percent of the time if a patient would show signs of consciousness a year later, and 92 percent of the time if they would remain in a vegetative or minimally conscious state.
In the 41 patients deemed in a vegetative state using normal tests, the PET scan found previously undetected minimal consciousness in 13. A year later, nine of the 13 had progressed into at least a minimally conscious state, three had died, and one was still in a vegetative state.
The metabolic patterns of a brain in a vegetative state look different from those of a brain with intermittent consciousness, the researchers found. The prognosis was best for those who had survived traumatic brain injury, as opposed to someone whose brain was damaged due to hypoxia, a prolonged interruption of oxygenated blood to the brain.
The findings show that PET scans paint a clearer picture of the patient's outcome than the more widely available functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI. The difference between the two is that PET scans detect signs of metabolic activity, while an fMRI detects activity in certain brain regions by looking for oxygenation.
The new research could provide hope, or at least guidance, for the families of vegetative patients. But not all patients with hopeful PET scans will recover. "We shouldn't give these families false hope," report author Steven Laureys tells The New York Times. "This is very difficult. But it's just a very complex medical reality. Quantifying consciousness is tricky." Catherine Garcia
In a fitting continuation to his high-drama athletic career, former NFL quarterback turned baseball rookie Tim Tebow took his first pitch as a professional baseball player Wednesday — and promptly hit a home run:
Tebow is playing with the Instructional League team of the New York Mets based in Port St. Lucie, Florida. The major-league Mets are fighting hard for a wild card spot in the MLB playoffs, but have been decimated by injuries. If they need some extra firepower, it looks like they know who to call. Kimberly Alters
Actress Melissa Joan Hart is locking up the teen witch vote for Gary Johnson, having thrown her support behind the Libertarian candidate and stepped up as his campaign's Connecticut chairperson. "I want to break away from this two-party system and I think it's important for people to know that there's another candidate out there who really toes the line between Democrat and Republican," Hart told People. "I mean, he's Libertarian. But socially he's liberal, but fiscally conservative."
"Governors, I love, because they already ran their state as, like, a little president," Hart added, in reference to Johnson's eight years as governor of New Mexico. "He was on a border state, so if you want to talk about immigration, he's the guy."
Johnson is currently polling at an average of 7.4 percent nationally; in an Emerson poll in early September, he was at about 9 percent in Connecticut. Watch Hart talk about why she supports the underdog, below. Jeva Lange
The Senate on Wednesday overrode President Barack Obama's veto of a controversial bill allowing families of 9/11 victims to sue the government of Saudi Arabia. The Senate prevailed in a landslide 97-1 vote, and the House will likely vote on the bill later this week.
The bill is expected to result in the first veto override of Obama's presidency, Politico reports. The bill's detractors have argued it would weaken sovereign immunity, with the Obama administration claiming "the bill could lead other nations to alter their laws upholding sovereign immunity ... [and] would have dire consequences for Americans posted overseas," CNN explained.
The Saudi government has long denied involvement in the 9/11 attacks. Jeva Lange
Eric Trump praises his father's 'courage' for not mentioning Bill Clinton's infidelity at the debate
Some kids will always remember their dad teaching them to ride a bike or taking them on that childhood camping trip. Eric Trump, on the other hand, says what he'll "always remember" about dad Donald Trump is when he so bravely refrained from mentioning former President Bill Clinton's infidelity during the presidential debate Monday. "I mean, he very well could've looked down — and he said it when he came off the debate stage, 'I wasn't gonna respond to that question because I saw Chelsea [Clinton] in the front row and I just wasn't gonna go there out of respect for her," Eric said during an interview Tuesday with 1040 WHO Iowa radio. "That was a big moment for me and probably will actually become ... something I'll always remember."
Eric said he thought it took "a lot of courage in so many regards" for his father to take "the high road" instead of retaliating against Hillary Clinton when she attacked him for his past poor treatment of women. "I'm really proud of him for doing that," Eric said. You can listen to the rest of Eric's praise for his father below, via BuzzFeed. Becca Stanek
Historians have dedicated lifetimes of study to the Silk Road trade route, which connected Ancient China and the Roman Empire. But new skeletons unearthed in a London cemetery now have researchers questioning exactly the extent of the partnership between the two great civilizations.
In a Roman cemetery in London, archaeologists found two pairs of remains belonging to people of Asian ancestry. Analysis indicates it is highly likely the people were Chinese, meaning they would have had to travel around 5,000 miles to get to England. "Many people traveled, often vast distances, for trade or because of their occupation, for example in the military, or their social status, for example if they were enslaved," Dr. Rebecca Redfern explained in The Journal of Archaeological Science.
The bones date back to sometime between the 2nd and 4th century A.D. Up until now, only one other person of Asian ancestry had ever been discovered from a site dating back to the Roman Empire, NextShark reports.
While nothing is conclusive yet, researchers can begin to speculate about what kinds of lives the people lived; perhaps the pair were immigrants who had come to Europe to set up their own business. Other skeletons in the area have been linked to African and Mediterranean peoples, suggesting the neighborhood was perhaps home to a diverse community of immigrants that shared the same social or economic status as the other locals. Jeva Lange
On Wednesday, FBI Director James Comey announced the agency will soon release a database that will track police use of deadly force. Comey told members of Congress during an ongoing oversight hearing that the database will be "up and running within two years," and that it will keep a tally of how many deaths are caused nationwide by police, The Associated Press reported.
Many, including Comey, have long been critical of the lack of such a database, as the information is increasingly in demand following numerous controversial cases of police violence over the last two years. Last October, Comey called it "embarrassing and ridiculous" that officials were not able to determine whether two high-profile police shootings were "isolated events or part of an alarming trend," The Washington Post reported. "It is unacceptable," Comey said, that media outlets like The Washington Post and The Guardian are the "lead source of information about violent encounters between police and civilians."
Comey is hopeful the database will allow future conversations about police violence to be shaped by the facts. "Everybody gets why it matters," he said Wednesday. Becca Stanek
Disney has been slowly reworking many of its animated classics into live-action films, and the next to get the treatment is going to be The Lion King. Disney announced Wednesday it is reteaming with live-action Jungle Book director Jon Favreau for the film.
"The Lion King builds on Disney's success of reimagining its classics for a contemporary audience with films like Maleficent, Cinderella, and The Jungle Book,” the company said in a statement. "The upcoming Beauty and the Beast, starring Emma Watson as Belle, is already one of the most anticipated movies of 2017. Like Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King will include songs from the animated film."
The 1994 animated Lion King was the highest grossing animated film for 16 years; it has also been adapted for Broadway. Jeva Lange