Everquest pizza

The art of the pause

Brain-injured woman starts to talk

Apropos of my column last week in Slate about communicating with the paralyzed — the locked-in or minimally conscious — here’s a wild story: A woman who has been mostly incommunicado for 20 years has suddenly started talking again. Sarah Scantlin (pictured above) was struck by a drunk driver in 1984, and for 20 years had only been able to blink her eyes once or twice for “yes” or “no”, and no-one was entirely clear how much she really understood. This January, she began to speak. Doctors have no idea how this regeneration took place, but the conversations she’s been having are both poignant and unsurpassingly surreal. As the Associated Press reports:

Family members say Scantlin’s understanding of the outside world comes mostly from news and soap operas that played on the television in her room.

On Saturday, her brother asked whether she knew what a CD was. Sarah said she did, and she knew it had music on it.

But when he asked her how old she was, Sarah guessed she was 22. When her brother gently told her she was 38 years old now, she just stared silently back at him. The nurses say she thinks it is still the 1980s.

(Thanks to Plastic for this one!)

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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