Davinia Fernández-Espejo

Davinia is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Psychology, University of Birmingham. The main goal of her research is to understand how the brain supports consciousness and what goes wrong for patients to become entirely unaware after severe brain injury. She is currently funded by an MRC New Investigator Research Grant. Before joining the University of Birmingham, she was a research scientist at the Brain and Mind Institute, Western University, Canada. She obtained her PhD in the neural basis of consciousness at the University of Barcelona in 2010, after completing several research internships in the Department of Clinical Neurosciences at the University of Cambridge.

Talk title: I can only imagine; the overt versus covert paradox in the Vegetative State

We can only infer whether somebody is aware by looking at their external behaviour. But what if you are not capable to control your behaviour to show that you are aware? Over the last few years, brain imaging has revealed a subset of vegetative state patients who are aware, and even able to communicate with the researchers, despite appearing entirely physically unresponsive. I will discuss what current research tells us about the cause of such paradoxical abilities. I will argue that we may be uncovering a new (yet-to-define) motor syndrome, which is being misdiagnosed as a consciousness impairment.