Surprisingly significant brain activity by Ariel Sharon was registered in a recent test conducted by researchers from Beersheba’s Ben-Gurion University, who used pictures and recordings to try and stimulate the former prime minister, the university said Sunday.

During the two-hour long test, scientists from BGU and University of California-Los Angeles showed Sharon pictures of his family, had him listen to his son’s voice, and used tactile stimulation to assess to what extent his brain responded to external stimuli, the university said in a press statement. The statement elaborated on initial reports of the test on Friday.

To their surprise, significant brain activity was observed in each test in specific brain regions, indicating appropriate processing of the stimulation.

Ariel Sharon (photo credit: Moshe Shai/Flash90)

Ariel Sharon (photo credit: Moshe Shai/Flash90)

Sharon, presumed to be in a vegetative state since 2006 due to brain hemorrhage, was scanned to assess the extent and quality of his brain processing using methods recently developed by Prof. Martin Monti from UCLA and his Israeli counterparts.

The researchers said the results from the test would be used to help advance the field of study.

“This line of research could shed light on basic questions pertaining to the neural basis of consciousness,”  saidTzvi Ganel of the Zlotowski Center for Neuroscience, who initiated the project.

Additional tests were performed to assess Sharon’s level of consciousness. While there were some encouraging signs, these were subtle and not as strong, the school said.

“Information from the external world is being transferred to the appropriate parts of Mr. Sharon’s brain; however, the evidence does not as clearly indicate whether Mr. Sharon is consciously perceiving this information,” Monti said.

Sharon was prime minister from 2001 until his collapse in 2006. In 2005 he initiated and carried out the disengagement from the Gaza Strip, ordering the removal of all Israeli presence from the enclave.