Thursday, August 2, 2007

New device to end a coma

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A brain-damaged man who spent six years in a near-vegetative state can now chew his food, watch a movie and talk with family thanks to a brain pacemaker that may change the way such patients are treated.

The 38-year-old man is the first person in a minimally conscious state to be treated with deep-brain stimulation, a treatment that uses a pacemaker and two electrodes to send impulses into a part of the brain regulating consciousness. Like a heart pacemaker, the device is implanted in the chest under the skin, but electrodes deliver stimulation to precisely targeted areas deep in the brain.

Researchers think the electrical stimulation may be enhancing the brain circuits that are still capable of functioning.

His awakening may change the way doctors think about people with severe brain injuries, who are largely unresponsive but still have some level of consciousness. Link

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