An exciting new development could someday change the fate of hundreds of thousands of people suffering from a traumatic brain injury.
Scientists have jump-started the brain of a man who suffered a severe head injury during a brutal robbery by bringing him out of the coma-like state he'd been in for six years, at least enough to communicate and call his parents by name.
"He's still severely disabled, but his quality of life has been improved because he can communicate with the outside world," Ali Rezai, MD, with the Cleveland Clinic.
Dr. Nicholas Schiff with Weill Cornell adds, "the results were immediate, we saw improvements in the arousal of the patient. He was more awake, and the results improved over time."
Researchers at the Cleveland Clinic and Cornell Medical Center worked together on this to see if stimulating the brain with electricity could help restore some function in patients who are in a minimally conscious state.
It's kind of like implanting a pacemaker wire into the brain, similar to the way they treat epilepsy or parkinsons. It's important to note that this was not tested on patients in a vegetative state, but only on those who are minimally comatose which means they do respond somewhat.