Karen Quinlan

Mark Mattson mpm at seqanal.mi.uky.edu
Mon Jul 11 14:33:10 EST 1994

William Saidel (saidel at crab.rutgers.edu) wrote:
: herwin at mason1.gmu.edu (HARRY R. ERWIN) writes:

: >They did an autopsy on Karen Ann Quinlan's brain to see if they could
: >learn anything about her persistant vegetative state. It turns out her
: >thalamus had been extensively lesioned, thus turning off sensory input
: >other than from the olfactory system. She may well have been conscious
: >until she died.

: >--
: >Harry Erwin
: >Internet: herwin at gmu.edu 
: >Just a dumb engineer working on Katchalsky nets....

: Nancy Andreason showed at a meeting in D.C. last summer, her attempt
: to normalize brains as seen in image slices. She then compared the
: brains of normals vs. clinically defined schizophrenics and showed
: images suggesting that the sensory thalamus was highly underdeveloped
: or atrophied (remarkably smaller than norm) leaving me with a hint
: that perhaps the voices and the images schizophrenics report were
: constructed, perhaps because the operations of a brain cannot tolerate
: (?, not sure how to describe this state) empty space.
:   Coupling that with responses of individuals in isolation chambers
: (visions and voices, etc.), leads me to conclude that if K.Q. had
: destroyed her sensory thalamus, she had no contact with the outside
: world. If she had no contact, then there is no way to even talk about
: her consciousness since she could not report about it to another.

: By the way, Nancy Andreasen (proper spelling) can be found at the
: University of Iowa College of Medicine.

You make a good point, if one cannot sense or interact in any way with
one's environment, one is not technically conscious.  I guess what Harry
the Engineer was trying to say is that maybe K.Q. had self-awareness, thoughts,
or dreams.(?)

Steve Barger, Ph.D.
Sanders-Brown Center on Aging

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