Alfred Hitchcock
Alfred Hitchcock. Gary Null/NBCU Photo Bank

Canadian Researchers from Western Ontario University tuned into an Alfred Hitchcock short film to revive the brain of a person who had been completely unresponsive after a brain injury 16 years ago.

Lorina Naci, a postdoctoral fellow from Western Ontario University's Brain and Mind Institute reported her findings alongside her colleagues Rhodri Cusack, Mimma Anello and Adrian Owen, in the 15 September issue of The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

The participants in the study were placed inside a 3T Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Scanner at Western's Centre for Functional and Metabolic Mapping.

All of them watched a highly engaging short film directed by Hitchcock, including a person in a vegetative, unconscious, state.

The participant in the long-time unresponsive state was seen to display similar brain activity patterns as the others while watching the Hitchcock film.

"For the first time, we show that a patient with unknown levels of consciousness can monitor and analyze information from their environment, in the same way as healthy individuals.

"We already know that up to one in five of these patients are misdiagnosed as being unconscious and this new technique may reveal that that number is even higher," said Naci, the lead researcher of the study.

Owen, the Canada Excellence Research Chair in Cognitive Neuroscience and Imaging, further added:

"This approach can detect not only whether a patient is conscious, but also what that patient might be thinking. Thus, it has important practical and ethical implications for the patient's standard of care and quality of life."