Coma people sniffing

Coma people sniffing

Have you ever walked into your kitchen while the horrible smell of your roommate’s dirty dishes wanted to make you kill yourself? Well, you might want to do your best, because when you’re not really dead but just lying there in a vegetative state, you can still be terrorized by that horrible smell. And now you can’t even walk away. Too bad. Wonder why?

If you stick a smelly jar under the nose of people laying in a vegetative state, some of them will start to spontaneously sniff. As bizarre as it might sound, a new study shows that this technique could prove to be an effective way of accurately diagnosing patients with disorders of consciousness and gauging their chances of recovery.

Reported in the journal Nature, researchers from the University of Cambridge in the UK and the Weizmann Institute of Science Israel used this “sniff test” on 43 patients with severe brain injuries who were showing minimal or no signs of awareness of the external world. Researchers placed a jar containing either a pleasant smell of shampoo, an unpleasant smell of rotten fish, or no smell near the patient’s nose for five seconds, while a specialized tube kept tabs on the breathing through their nose.

In 100 percent of the cases where the patient reacted to the test by increasing their strength of sniffing, they went on to regain consciousness. In a follow-up 3.5 years later, over 91 percent of these patients were still alive, while 63 percent of those who had shown no response to the smells had died. This suggests the “sniff test” could be used to predict a patient’s outcomes after suffering from a severe brain injury. 

The take-home message? Next time your roommate makes your home smell horrible, just kill them instead of yourself.


The Onderwijscie

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