Electrical Brain Stimulation Can Restore Consciousness

/ 3 years ago



Patients that are in a coma, a vegetative state or in a minimally conscious state sometimes recover spontaneously to varying degrees, most cases however, there is nothing that a doctor can do. Now a study by a group of Belgian doctors might have found how to temporarily raise awareness in minimally conscious patients.

This new study at the  Liège University Hospital Center in Belgium has found that transcranial direct-current stimulation (tDCS), a relatively simple process that involves low current stimulation can increase the responses of their patients. For patients in a vegetative state who cannot communicate or show any other purposeful behavior,  it is hard to tell if the study worked, but researchers believed that at least 2 patients responded to treatment.  This might not sound like a massive breakthrough but out of 30 patients that were in a minimally conscious state, defined by having occasional moments of low-level awareness, 13 showed measurable gains in their responses to questions and sensory stimuli.

The effects only last for minutes but the researchers are hopeful. The tDCS apparatus is inexpensive, easy to use, safe and lacking in side effects so researchers are planning new studies to see if the stimulation can be made to spur a more lasting recovery. If this is not possible then even the short bursts of awareness could allow a patient to communicate with loved ones in a meaningful way , which, I’m sure you agree, is invaluable.

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Thanks to Scientific American for supplying us with this information.

Image courtesy of Scientific American

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