Panorama: The Mind Reader - Unlocking My Voice

10:35pm Tuesday 13 November on BBC ONE

An exclusive documentary about a group of severely brain injured patients and the efforts made to help them to communicate with the outside world.

Panorama spent more than a year with vegetative and minimally conscious patients in Britain and Canada. All the patients are men who suffered horrendous brain injuries in accidents.

The research is led by British neuroscientist Professor Adrian Owen, based at the University of Western Ontario in Canada and the University of Cambridge.

Professor Owen has previously shown that nearly one in five vegetative patients are in fact, conscious.

His team use brain scanning – functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) and Electroencephalography (EEG) – to detect hidden awareness in patients and to enable them to communicate.

The BBC’s Medical Correspondent Fergus Walsh witnesses the moment when a patient regarded as vegetative for more than a decade is able to answer a series of questions while inside a brain scanner.

Other vegetative or minimally conscious patients are shown capable of reasoning and memory, which the scientists use to enable them to communicate using the power of thought.

The findings could have profound implications for the patients and their families as well as for scientists and medical staff.

What questions do the parents want to ask their sons – do they know who they are, do they remember things after their accident, are they in pain?

The documentary reveals the emotional journey of the families, the painstaking assessments and care of medical staff, and the remarkable scientific research which is revealing hidden awareness.

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