JERUSALEM — Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, in a coma since suffering a brain hemorrhage in 2006, may be unconsciously aware of his surroundings, according to a group of U.S. and Israeli doctors.
During a two-hour test, a team of brain scientists — including Alon Friedman of Ben-Gurion University and Martin Monti of the University of California at Los Angeles — exposed Sharon to stimulation such as pictures of his family and recordings of his son’s voice in an attempt to discern whether his brain could process stimuli.
While activity was observed, indicating Sharon was processing the information, there was no evidence he was consciously engaged, they said.
“Information from the external world is being transferred to the appropriate parts of Mr. Sharon’s brain,” Monti said in an emailed statement from Israel’s Ben-Gurion University. “However, the evidence does not as clearly indicate whether Mr. Sharon is consciously perceiving this information.”
Sharon, 85, had served four years as prime minister when he suffered a debilitating stroke in 2006 that left him in a coma.
Earlier, he was one of Israel’s most controversial generals and was forced to resign as defense minister after a government commission assigned him indirect blame for the massacre of Palestinian refugees by Israeli-allied Lebanese Christians in 1982.
Sharon was later hailed internationally as a peacemaker when he evacuated thousands of Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip in 2005 and handed the territory to the Palestinians.
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