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Into the Grey Zone

Adrian Owen

A startling tale of a neuroscientific discovery that revolutionises our thinking about life and death – and gives patients and their families the answers they crave.

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In 2006 Dr Adrian Owen and his team made medical history. They discovered a new realm of consciousness, a twilight zone somewhere between life and death. They called this the Grey Zone.

The people who inhabit the Grey Zone are frequently labelled as being irretrievably lost, with no awareness and no sense of self. The shocking truth is that they are often still there, an intact mind trapped deep inside a broken body and brain, hearing everything around them, experiencing emotions, thoughts, pleasure and pain, just like the rest of us. Not quite living, and not quite gone, they have existed silently in these shadowlands. But now, through Dr Owen’s pioneering techniques, we can talk to them – and they can talk back.

These shifting boundaries of consciousness have shaken the architecture of our sense of self. We have known for a long time that a body does not define a person – but what if a brain does not define a mind? What does it mean if a mind can exist unharmed within a deeply damaged brain?

Through cutting edge research and case studies that are poignant, tragic and uplifting, Dr Owen maps this inner universe of the self, showing us what it means to be alive and human.

Critic Reviews

A fascinating and accessible account of cutting-edge science, and of those whose lives have been altered in an instant ...This book will be required reading for anyone sitting by a loved one’s bedside, caregivers, doctors, ethicists, lawyers and philosophers.

Sunday Times
Critic Reviews

Astonishing … ground-breaking research … Science as an act of adventure, and also rescue. Owen is intrepid, and vulnerable. It never feels less than miraculous when he pulls a fellow human out of the dark.

Critic Reviews

A fascinating and highly readable book … gripping and moving … Owen's work raises many more questions than it answers.

New Statesman
Critic Reviews

Riveting and strangely uplifting ... Owen's experiences with grey-zone patients and their families, he said, had changed his life. Reading the book, I can see why: the testimonies of people who have returned from the grey zone evoke the mysteries of consciousness and identity with tremendous power.

Joshua Rothman, The New Yorker, 'What We're Reading This Summer'
Critic Reviews

[A] fascinating memoir ... Into The Grey Zone reads like a thriller as {Owen] recounts his and his teams’ efforts to explore [the] ‘grey zone’... Owen’s enthusiasm for his science crackles from the pages. His determination to fight for the scores of voiceless grey-zone patients he encounters, to prove they’re ‘thinking, feeling people’ is hugely thought-provoking and deeply moving.

Mail on Sunday
Critic Reviews

Meshing memoir with scientific explication, Owen reveals how functional magnetic resonance imaging can probe the deep space of trapped minds. It's a riveting read, from the march of technology and tests for neural responses – such as imagining playing a game of tennis – to extraordinary personal accounts of the 'grey zone' by partially recovered patients.