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Can brain imaging technology enable doctors to see inside the brain to try and detect signs of awareness? Can these scans reveal brain activity that the patient is outwardly unable to convey?

Occasionally, news headlines exclaim extraordinary stories of people coming ‘back to life’ after years of being in a persistent vegetative state (PVS). In this condition, people are trapped inside their own bodies, appearing to be awake or asleep but with no sign of awareness or of a functioning mind.

At the age of just 39, mother of three Kate Allatt had a stroke that pitched her into locked-in syndrome. Apart from blinking, she couldn’t move anything, though she could feel everything. Months later she recovered, and tonight Kate will tell her story.

Occupational therapist Helen Gill-Thwaites will talk about assessment of the patient’s needs and how decisions include all the family. She has developed SMART (Sensory Modality Assessment and Rehabilitation Technique), which accurately diagnoses disorders of consciousness. Dr Judith Allanson, a consultant in rehabilitation medicine, is part of a research team studying the function of the brain in people with prolonged disorders of consciousness.

PVS raises a host of ethical and medical concerns, posing seemingly impossible dilemmas for patients and their families. Join our panel and discover more about the remarkable nature of the human brain when it’s in the most traumatic circumstances.


Dr Sophie Petit-Zeman


Kate Allatt, CEO, Fighting Strokes

Helen Gill-Thwaites, SMART consultant and developer, Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability, London

Dr Judith Allanson, Evelyn Trust Consultant in Neurorehabilitation, Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge

This event is hosted by the Neurological Alliance and the British Neuroscience Association.

This event will be filmed.