Brain Shaking Technique Offers Measure of Consciousness

Brain Shaking Technique Offers Measure of Consciousness

A new technique for measuring consciousness offers a reliable way to guide treatment of patients with brain injuries who can’t respond to commands, according to a study.

By using a device that shakes the entire brain with strong magnetic stimulation, researchers led by a team at University of Milan in Italy measured the amount of information flow occurring in the brain. They were able to discriminate between various levels of consciousness with a numerical index they developed. The study was published today in Science Translational Medicine.The technique may be particularly useful in assessing improvements in patients in intensive-care units who have low levels of consciousness, for which no objective measure exists, resulting in high rates of incorrect diagnoses, said Marcello Massimini, one of the study authors. With the brain stimulation technique, they found that such patients actually had much higher levels of consciousness than subjects who were sleeping or were anesthetized, he said.

“It will be very important to perform measurements right in the ICU in the acute phase to have an objective marker of what’s happening and to track improvements occurring spontaneously or brought about by treatment,” Massimini said in a phone interview. “If you have a number, you can start working towards an evidence-based treatment.”

Vegetative States

The method was tested on 52 subjects including healthy ones while they were awake, sleeping, and under anesthesia, and also on brain-injured patients who had emerged from a coma.

“Measures that can reliably distinguish vegetative states from minimally conscious states are crucial and will have an impact on clinical practice,” said Nicholas Schiff, a professor of neurology and neuroscience at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York, in a comment accompanying the paper. “Misdiagnosis rates are high when behavioral evidence of consciousness is limited.”

The researchers used a trans-cranial magnetic stimulation device made by Nexstim, based in Helsinki, Massimini said. The device also records electrical responses of the brain induced by the stimulation pulses. Brainsway Ltd. (BRIN) of Jerusalem also produces a TMS device for treating neurological conditions such as depression.

To contact the reporter on this story: Makiko Kitamura in London at

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (, the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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