Summary & Study Guide - Into the Gray Zone by Lee Tang

A Neuroscientist Explores the Border Between Life and Death

The must-read summary of “Into the Gray Zone: A Neuroscientist Explores the Border Between Life and Death” by Adrian Owen.

Summary & study guide - into the gray zone

The Borderland Between Life and Death

The must-read summary of “Into the Gray Zone: A Neuroscientist Explores the Border Between Life and Death” by Adrian Owen.

The “gray zone” is the twilight region between full consciousness and brain death. People with sustained brain injuries or victims of strokes or neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s are often in the gray zone. Many of them are oblivious to the outside world, and their doctors and families often believe they are incapable of thought. But 20 percent of them are conscious although they never respond to any form of external stimulation.

This complete summary of Adrian Owen’s book tells how Owen pushes forward the boundaries of science, using a variety of brain scans and brain-computer interfaces, to find patients who are in the gray zone and communicate with them. It sheds a light on how we pay attention and remember, and how the brain-computer interface technology is changing the prognosis for people with impaired brain function and creating the possibility of telepathy and augmented intelligence.

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Value-added of this guide:

Read this summary and reflect on what these fascinating borderlands between life and death have taught us about being human.

Genre: STUDY AIDS / Study Guides

Secondary Genre: SCIENCE / Life Sciences / Neuroscience

Language: English

Keywords: end of life care, hospice and palliative care, quest for consciousness, consciousness explained, right to die, assisted suicide, vegetative, comatose, coma, minimally conscious

Word Count: 13,500

Sample text:

When Adrian Owen was a young neuropsychologist at the University of Cambridge in 1988, he felled in love with Maureen, a Scottish neuropsychologist living in Newcastle upon Tyne. After months of commuting between Cambridge and Newcastle upon Tyne, Adrian and Maureen both moved down to London and shared a small apartment.

Maureen was deeply affected by the patients at the Maudsley Hospital and the Institute of Psychiatry where she worked. She became a psychiatric nurse and spent long evenings out with her new colleagues while Adrian stayed home working on his scientific papers. Within a year, their relationship fell apart. Adrian met someone else and left Maureen in 1990 just as the UK housing market collapsed. Their £60,000 apartment was worth £30,000. To make the mortgage payment, they had to rent the apartment to friends. Maureen and Adrian were no longer on speaking terms.

The same year, Adrian’s mother experienced blinding headaches and couldn’t see anything in her left visual field. A CT scan showed she had a cancerous tumor inside her brain pushing its way into her cortex, interfering with her behavior, affecting her moods and her vision. Soon she slipped into her own gray zone and died in November 1992.

After his mother’s death, Adrian accepted a three-year postdoctoral position at the Montreal Neurological Institute (the Neuro) in Canada.

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Already translated. Translated by Louise Chaumont
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