In a strange incident of a kind, a 35-year-old man woke up from a 15 years-coma after suffering a serious brain injury.
After stimulating a nerve attached to his brain, the man smiled and seemed to cry after hearing one of his favorite songs. For the first time since his injury, the patient, who was not named, managed to follow a moving object with his eyes and move his head when asked to do so.
It was thought that a person who goes into a coma for more than a year will not regain consciousness. Scientists are now seeking to use the same technique on other patients to see how widely they can be used.
This discovery was observed after stimulation of the vagus nerve, which connects the brain to the rest of the body, known for its importance in waking up and attention. "Restoring brain flexibility and brain repair is still possible even when hope seems to have faded," said Angela Sergio, co-author of the study in Current Biology. "It is possible to improve the patient's presence in the world," said Angela, from the French University of Lyon.
The patient began to respond to simple commands that were impossible to perform before, such as following a moving mirror with his eyes and moving his head. His mother, who agreed to have an operation to implant the nerve stimulation device, said his ability to stay awake when listening to his doctor reading a book had improved.
The researchers also saw responses from the patient when feeling "threatened", which was not shown before. After his consciousness had reached the maximum level of decline before, his eyes now widen the surprise if the face of a researcher suddenly appeared in front of him.
"Emotional sentimental behaviors also appeared in response to emotional stimuli. For example, a smile was seen on his left cheek and tears while listening to his favorite music. "
"This may be interesting new progress, but I would like to suggest caution about these results so that they can re-emerge in more patients," said Dr. Vladimir Litvak, a senior lecturer at Wilkum Imaging and Neuroscience Department at the Neurology Institute at London University College.
"It is difficult to know how likely this treatment is to be used among patients based on one-state responses. In addition, low awareness remains a severe constraint, and the authors of the study were forced to use clinical tests and special neurological imaging procedures to demonstrate an actual change in the patient's condition. "
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