A French man has regained a significant degree of awareness after he responds to therapy. being in a vegetative state for 10 years. Doctors treated the now 35 year old man, injured in a car accident over 10 years ago, with an experimental therapy that involved implanting a nerve stimulator into his chest. Within a month, he could respond to simple instructions, turning his head and following an object with his eyes. A Dr. referred to the response as a modern miracle.
DR AND SCIENTISTS VERY EXCITED BY RESULTS OF VAGAL NERVE STIMULATION
Scientists say the results are potentially very exciting, but need repetition to prove consistent success. Vagal nerve stimulation (VNS) may not work as effectively in patients with different patterns of brain damage. But Dr. Sirigu, from the Institute des Sciences Cognitives Marc Jeannerod, in Lyon, said it had chosen another really challenging patient to test the treatment. “The vagus nerve connects the brain to many parts of the body and helps control automatic or subconscious functions, including alertness and wakefulness.”
SAME PATIENT RESPONDS TO THERAPY AGAIN, ANOTHER DISCOVERY, PATIENT REACTS TO THREAT
After one month of vagal nerve stimulation, the patient’s mother reported he had an improved ability to stay awake when listening to his therapist reading a book. And brain scans reflected this improvement, they also started responding to “threat”. To explain, when the doctor’s head suddenly approached the patient’s face, he reacted with surprise, opening his eyes wide and gasping.
DR. AGREES HOPE FOR THE HOPELESS
Dr. Sirigu said: “Brain plasticity and brain repair are still possible even when hope seems to have vanished. “After this case report, we should consider testing larger populations of patients.” “This treatment can be important for minimally conscious patients by giving them more chances to communicate with the external world.”
Dr. Vladimir Litvak, from The Wellcome Centre for Human Neuroimaging, at University College London’s Institute of Neurology, said: “This might be an interesting new lead, but I would suggest to be cautious about these results until they are reproduced in more patients.
“It is hard to know based on single cases how likely this treatment is to work in the general patient population. The fact that he responds to therapy is itself remarkable”