A man who had been in a vegetative state for 15 years has shown signs of consciousness
A 35-year-old man who had been in a vegetative state for 15 years after a car accident has shown signs of consciousness. That happened after neurosurgeons implanted a vagus nerve stimulator into his chest. It was believed that disorders of consciousness that persist for longer than 12 months are irreversible. Now patients who had been lying in a vegetative state for more than a decade with no sign of improvement found hope.
Medicialxpress.com reports details of the new discovery with reference to the scientific journal Current Biology. The vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) which is a treatment already in use for epilepsy and depression, can help to restore consciousness. «By stimulating the vagus nerve, we show that it is possible to improve a patient’s presence in the world,» says Angela Sirigu of Institut des Sciences Cognitives Marc Jeannerod in Lyon, France.
Reportedly, after one month of vagal nerve stimulation, the patient’s attention, movements and brain activity significantly improved. The man began responding to simple orders that had been impossible before. Also, he could follow an object with his eyes and turn his head upon request and open his eyes wide when the examiner’s head suddenly approached his face.
Recordings of brain activity also revealed major changes. A theta EEG signal important for distinguishing between a vegetative and minimally conscious state increased significantly in areas of the brain involved in movement, sensation, and awareness.
The findings show that it is possible to revive a patient even in the most severe clinical cases, the researchers say.
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