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Live from Abu Dhabi Connect the World takes you on a journey across continents, investigating the stories that are changing our world.

Live from Abu Dhabi Connect the World takes you on a journey across continents, investigating the stories that are changing our world.

Monday's Connector of the Day: Pervez Musharraf

February 9th, 2010
09:03 PM ET

Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf is becoming one of the biggest stars on Facebook.

Pervez Musharraf

Pervez Musharraf

His personal Facebook page has more than 127,000 fans and he regularly answers questions and posts status updates.

Musharraf swept to power in 1999 in a bloodless coup, removing Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and appointing himself president in 2001, while remaining the head of the military.

Considered an ally by the United States in the fight against Islamic extremists in the region, he was criticized for impeding democratic elections in 2008 – including delaying the elections, suspending the country's constitution, restricting the media and having political protesters arrested.

Ultimately, the pro-Musharraf party – Muslim League-Q – finished third in the voting and he stepped down only after the ruling coalition announced it would seek to impeach him.

Musharraf, speaking on CNN's "Fareed Zakaria GPS" last May, said he wishes the current government well and that he "would be the happiest person" if the nation deals well with threats such as the growing political and martial strength of the Taliban.

We want to know what you think. What would you like to ask the former Pakistani leader?

Brain scan study allows "vegetative" patient to respond

February 9th, 2010
03:29 PM ET

I'd never been through an MRI scan before, and this one was anything but routine.

Our assignment was to find a way to illustrate a complex story about patients diagnosed as "vegetative" showing signs of awareness when in a functional MRI scanner.

The story emerged from a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Producer Jonathan Wald immediately set to work ringing hospitals, neurosurgeons, and research centers.

Eventually, we got through to one of the authors of the study.

Dr. Adrian Owen offered to question me while inside the fMRI scanner at the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences unit at Cambridge– much like what the patients in his study had gone through.

Twenty-three of those patients were believed to be in a so-called "vegetative state;" unresponsive and unaware of their surroundings.

But when asked to imagine playing tennis (meant to activate parts of the brain associated with movement), and walking through the rooms of their homes (meant to activate regions associate with spatial navigation), four of the patients' brains showed a similar response to those of healthy control subjects.

The researchers then went on to ask one of them a series of yes and no questions, imagining tennis for yes, and walking through the house for no.

Incredibly, using only his thoughts, he was able to answer.

We set out to illustrate how the tests were done. So cameraman Andrew Bobbin and I took a pre-dawn train from London to the MRC in Cambridge, in order to use the fMRI scanner early in the morning, the only time it was free.

Dr. Owen had me remove all the metal from my pockets, take off my shoes and jacket, and lie down on the machine. Next, a sort of mirrored visor was placed over my eyes, in which I could see a blue digital rectangle, and I was lowered into the machine.

MRI scan shows different responses in the brain after the patient is asked different questions.

MRI scan shows different responses in the brain after the patient is asked different questions.

For the first ten minutes or so, I was asked to alternate between imagining standing in one spot swinging a tennis racket, and resting under the sun, doing nothing. Next, I was told to imagine walking through the rooms of my house. Only then did we get to the questions.

Dr. Owen asked, "Do you have any brothers or sisters"? He then spoke into the microphone, saying either "answer" - to which I would imagine tennis for yes and navigating my house for no - or "rest".

Though I generated clear enough signals for Dr. Owen to decipher my "yes" answer, it surprised me how difficult it was to think in such a disciplined way for five minutes or so.

For example, I'd be thinking of walking through my childhood home, then suddenly veer off into the neighbors yard and start remembering their old hound dog, or walk into my old bedroom and wonder if that closet door is still broken.

And then, I thought, what a different experience this would be if you were one of the patients in the study. When I was asked every so often if I understood and if I were doing ok, I could respond with no problem.

Not so for the study's patients.

What's more, for those patients diagnosed as "vegetative" but who now appear to be aware, this must have seemed one of the most important tests in their lives.

It was a chance to show not just their loved ones, but the world that they were still inside there - conscious!

Dr. Owen went on to ask a second question, and then we were out of time.

There are many reasons to be cautious about the results of this study, I've been told by doctors and scientists. Further tests need to be done, only those suffering from traumatic injuries responded like the healthy subjects, and only a small percentage of the "vegetative" patients showed signs of cognition.

But none of that has stopped me from wondering at the difference this could potentially make in the lives of some patients, and the possibilities for the future.

We'd like to know what you think - please leave comments or questions below.

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Filed under:  General

Wednesday's Connector: Donald Trump

February 9th, 2010
01:30 PM ET

Donald Trump is one of the world's most well known real-estate tycoons and television personalities.

Donald Trump.

Donald Trump.

His confident and sometimes brash attitude has made him both a friend or foe to many in the business and celebrity world.

During the late 1960s, Trump took over his father's real estate development company in New York City and he soon began investing heavily in large scale building projects in Manhattan.

His name soon became synonymous with luxury buildings including Trump Tower, Trump Plaza and Trump World Tower.

He also expanded the Trump Organization to include a number of casinos, golf courses and marinas.

In 2003, Trump moved from the construction site to the television set.

He was the executive producer and host of the hit television show, "The Apprentice", which pitted budding businessmen and women against each other in the hopes of getting a job with Trump.

The show went on to be a worldwide hit and in 2004, Trump trademarked his catch phrase "You're Fired!".

In the same year Trump's pay for the show skyrocketed to a reported $3 million per episode - making him one of the highest earning television stars in the world .

Trump, whose Miss Universe pageant is frequently criticized for being a sexist throwback, stirred further controversy in 2006 with an on-air verbal tirade against television personality Rosie O'Donnell.

The real-estate magnate is currently building what he is calling the "world's greatest golf course" near Aberdeen, Scotland after overcoming resistance from local environmentalists.

Here's your chance to ask Donald Trump your questions.

What was it like being on "The Apprentice"? Maybe you want to know how his wife Melania is? Are there any new building projects on the horizon? What does he think of President Obama?