NOT “the first coma patient to regain consciousness without life-threatening surgery”.
There are other non-invasive methods to do this.
A 25-year-old man has become the first coma patient to regain consciousness without life-threatening surgery.
The man, who has not been identified, had his brain jump-started with new ultrasound technology in an experiment by UCLA.
Within days of waking up, he was fully conscious, responding to questions, and even gave his doctor a fist-bump.
It is the first time such an approach has been used to treat severe brain injury.
The procedure marks a significant step in medical understanding that could save and transform millions of lives.
‘Until now, the only way to achieve [brain function] was a risky surgical procedure known as deep brain stimulation, in which electrodes are implanted directly inside the thalamus,’ said lead author Dr Martin Monti, UCLA professor of neurosurgery.
‘Our approach directly targets the thalamus but is noninvasive.
‘It’s almost as if we were jump-starting the neurons back into function.’
The study, published in the journal Brain Stimulation, focused on the thalamus as that is the part of the brain that is most impaired after a coma.
This is the brain’s sensory hub – an egg-shaped structure relaying signals from different regions and regulating waking, alertness and arousal.
Currently, medications prescribed to coma victims only target the thalamus indirectly.
Before the procedure began the patient showed only minimal signs of consciousness and recognizing speech.
HOW DOES THE NEW PROCEDURE WORK?
Currently, the only way to regain brain function after a coma is through a surgical procedure.
The procedure, dubbed deep brain stimulation, involves implanting electrodes directly inside the thalamus.
The UCLA study used a device about the size of a coffee cup.
It was developed by co-author Professor Alexander Bystritsky in his bio-tech firm Brainsonix.
The researchers placed the device on the man’s head and activated it to send pulses of ultrasound into the thalamus.
They activated it 10 times over 10 minutes, each time for 30 seconds.
By activating the device, they were creating a sphere of acoustic energy that could be aimed at different regions of the brain to stimulate tissue.
The device has incredibly low energy levels.
It emits less energy than a conventional Doppler ultrasound.
He could perform small, limited movements when asked but his reactions were slow.
The treatment involved a device developed by co-author Professor Alexander Bystritsky in his bio-tech firm Brainsonix.
The device – about the size of a saucer – was placed on the side of the man’s head, sending pulses of ultrasound into the thalamus.
This procedure, called low-intensity focused ultrasound pulsation, creates a small sphere of acoustic energy that can be aimed at different regions of the brain to excite brain tissue.
It was repeated 10 times, once a minute for 30 seconds each.
By the day after the treatment, the patient’s responses had improved measurably.
Three days later, the patient had regained full consciousness and full language comprehension.
He could reliably communicate by nodding his head ‘yes’ or shaking his head ‘no’.
He even made a fist-bump gesture to say goodbye to one of his doctors.
‘The changes were remarkable,’ Dr Monti said.
According to the researchers, the device is uniquely safe due to its low energy levels.
It emits less energy than a conventional Doppler ultrasound, thereby minimizing its impact on other delicate parts of the brain.
The researchers plan to test the procedure on more patients this year to develop the treatment.
Ultrasound devices capable of penetrating the human brain are already being tested for other conditions including tremors, chronic pain, and even dementia.
H/t reader kevin a.
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