Scientists have restored consciousness to a man who had been in a vegetative state for 15 years

French scientists, through the use of innovative therapy, have restored consciousness to a man who had been in a vegetative state for 15 years. Researchers have used an experimental method to stimulate the vagus nerve. New method may help patients in similar state after severe brain damage.

Fifteen years ago, 20-year-old w At the time, a Frenchman was involved in a car accident, which hich suffered extensive damage m fromgu. As a result of the injury, it fell into a persistent vegetative state called also the apalanic syndrome. A vegetative state is a state in which the rym patient lacks consciousness and cognitive function, but retains some re reactions – independently breathes, digests food given to him, some of the re defensive reactions, can react to external stimuli (e.g. blinks his eyelids in response to harsh light), but he does not contact the outside world.

Thanks to the use of experimental vagus nerve stimulation therapy (VNS – Vagus Nerve Stimulation), the researchers managed to induce in the patient a state expertly described as a state of minimal consciousness, in which the rym is able to make simple contact. A 35-year-old currently has a minimum of consciousness regarding his own person. According to the researchers The therapy they used points to a new avenue of research to restore the The state of unconsciousness after damage to the m zgu. It could become a starting point for new treatments for patients with similar injuries.

The data indicate that the person, who ra has been in a vegetative state for more than 12 months, he has extremely little chance of returning t to fitness. The state of such a person is considered permanent. This is caused by injuries that The injuries sustained by the patient within the cortex of the m The researchers wanted to see if it would be possible to coordinate the PET (positron emission tomography) signal with similar injuries zgu and white matter. Yet the French patient showed significant improvement after just one month of therapy, despite having been in a vegetative state for 15 years.

Neurosurgeons implanted a vagus nerve stimulator in the patient’s chest area. The vagus nerve is the longest of the nerves cranial and one of the most important nerve in connecting the head to the rest of the body. Stimulators of this nerve are sometimes called „pacemakers for m zgu”. In some rych therapies are used to treat seizures in epilepsy, sometimes to treat depression.

Stimulation of the vagus nerve in earlier studies has been shown to increase metabolism in wzg throw – the parts between the occlusion, which re corresponds to the for coordinating the signal in sensory. The researchers wanted to test their thesis as to whether this would be successful b przywr ck consciousness to a person in a vegetative state. Dr. Angela Sirigu and Dr. Jacques Luauté, kt ers led the scientific team In the case of the cortex, they specifically looked for the most severe cases in order to more easily recognize signs of improvement. Difficult cases were needed for them also so that the improvement in the patient’s condition cannot be explained by chance.

Team The researchers measured the patient’s behavior in response to stimuli using an electroencephalograph (EEG). Another imaging method was also used for the study – PET (positron emission tomography). Measurements by these methods were taken before and after stimulation of the vagus nerve.

After a month of stimulation, the patient began to show significant improvement. There has been an increase in the activity of m zgowa and motor. The patient began to respond to simple commands, which was impossible before the stimulation was applied. He began to respond to his name. He began to show signs of consciousness for the first time in 15 years.

– The man began to respond to simple commands, something he was incapable of before the therapy. M head, for example, to follow with his eyes an object moved in front of his eyes or to turn his head on demand. His mother reported a much greater ability to focus attention while reading a book to him – wrote the researchers in the journal „Current Biology”.

The improvement in the patient’s condition was also confirmed by EEG and PET imaging results. Wave activity m zgowych significantly increased after vagus nerve stimulation was performed. Especially in regions of m The tumor associated with movement and signal reception in sensory.

PET imaging images before vagus nerve stimulation – left – and three months after stimulation – right. photo. Current Biology

The findings directly contradict the og lnym assumption that spending 12 months or more in a vegetative state makes the condition irreversible. – The plasticity of the m zgu and its repair capabilities are still possible, even when the last spark of hope has been extinguished – acknowledged Dr. Sirigu.

Despite the amazing results in, which re obtained by French researchers, some ers and trauma specialists in m zgu remain skeptical. Head n because the nature of the vegetative state, coma or locked-in syndrome is not well understood. From time to time, inexplicable cases arise in kt he patient, despite a clear diagnosis and to the surprise of doctors, wakes up and returns to full or partial function.