On the right, the warmer colours indicate an increase in connectivity following vagus nerve stimulation among brain regions responsible for planned movements, spatial reasoning and attention.
Illustration: Corazzol et al.
If there is anything we’ve learned in the last decade about the adaptability and recuperative powers of the human brain it is that the “givens” about how the brain responds to massive injury continue to fall, one by one.
Near the top of the list is that if a patient has been in a so-called “persistent vegetative state” for longer than 12 months, there is no chance–no chance–of recovery.
A new study, published Monday in the journal Current Biology, took on that assumption head-on and the results are extremely encouraging.
Mindful that the shorter the period the patient has been in a “PVS,” the less likely skeptics would be to concede that improvements are a result of therapy, Dr. Angela Sirigu and associates worked with a Frenchman who had been in a PVS for 15 years following a car accident.
Once the 35-year-old man received a pioneering therapy involving nerve stimulation, he “appeared to flicker back into a state of consciousness,” according to Hannah Devin, a health correspondent for The Guardian.
He started to track objects with his eyes, began to stay awake while being read a story and his eyes opened wide in surprise when the examiner suddenly moved her face close to the patient’s. He could even respond to some simple requests, such as turning his head when asked – although this took about a minute.
Full article at NRL News Today