Las Vagus, Nerve-ada: a "roadtrip" to consciousness.
When a person reaches a year of being in a vegetative state– now referred to as "unresponsive wakefulness"-the condition is considered permanent. In short, no one will be "in there" again. However, a man in France defied all odds with the help of brave surgeons.
The 35-year-old had a car accident in 2001. Since then, there was no improvement in his condition. Angela Sirigu of the French National Centre for Scientific Research in Bron and colleagues believed that something could be done to possibly alleviate it and at least regain some aspects of his consciousness.
Their solution? A new technique focusing on the vagus nerve. This nerve runs from the base of the head to the abdomen. It is involved in wakefulness and attention.
The team started with wrapping thin electrode around the vagus nerve in his neck."He was monitored for a month before the nerve was stimulated. They then treated him continuously over six months. Each treatment involved 30 seconds of stimulation followed by 5 minutes of rest. The team started with an electrical current of 0.25 milliamperes, increasing by 0.25 mA a week up to 1.5 mA," NewScientist reported.
Miraculously, he started tracking people in the room just after a month. He also responded to instructions of turning his head to certain sides, and even tried to smile when asked to.
His scores on the “coma recovery scale” even suggested that he's under a minimally conscious state or that he has partial conscious awareness. However, he was still not able to talk or walk.
Nonetheless, this important findings provide hope to those who seemed to be "left behind" by their brain dead loved ones. "Brain plasticity and brain repair are still possible even when hope seems to have vanished," Sirigu concluded in a statement.
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