Sound en­ergy wakes pa­tient

Daily Mirror - - POLLYHUDSON - BY AN­DREW GRE­GORY Health Edi­tor an­drew.gre­gory@mir­ror.co.uk

DOCTORS have wo­ken a coma pa­tient for the first time ever by jump-start­ing his brain us­ing a pi­o­neer­ing ul­tra­sound tech­nique.

A saucer-sized de­vice was put against the side of the 25-year-old pa­tient’s head over a 10 minute pe­riod.

Each of the 10 half-minute, low­in­ten­sity pulses cre­ated acous­tic en­ergy to stim­u­late brain tis­sue.

The pa­tient’s re­sponses im­proved mea­sur­ably within 24 hours. In three days he was fully con­scious and had com­plete lan­guage com­pre­hen­sion.

He could nod his head “yes” or shake his head “no.” He even made a fist-bump ges­ture to say good­bye to one of his doctors.

The un­named man, who had shown only min­i­mal signs of be­ing con­scious be­fore the treat­ment at Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, Los An­ge­les, has made “re­mark­able” progress since.

The ul­tra­sound wakes brain nerve cells in the thal­a­mus, which con­trols move­ment and con­scious­ness.

The break­through, re­ported in yes­ter­day’s med­i­cal journal Brain Stim­u­la­tion, may lead to the de­vel­op­ment of a low-cost, hel­met-like, por­ta­ble de­vice to wake pa­tients.

Ex­perts believe even those in a veg­e­ta­tive or min­i­mally con­scious state could ben­e­fit. Cur­rently, there is no ef­fec­tive treat­ment for such pa­tients. Study lead au­thor Dr Martin Monti, a pro­fes­sor of psy­chol­ogy and neu­ro­surgery at UCLA, said: “The changes were re­mark­able. It’s al­most as if we were jump-start­ing the neu­rons back into func­tion.

“Un­til now, the only way to achieve this was a risky sur­gi­cal pro­ce­dure known as deep brain stim­u­la­tion, in which elec­trodes are im­planted di­rectly in­side the thal­a­mus.

“Our ap­proach di­rectly tar­gets the thal­a­mus but is non-in­va­sive.”

He said the pro­ce­dure would need more test­ing be­fore his team could de­ter­mine if it could con­sis­tently help ev­ery­one to re­cover from co­mas.

Doctors now plan to test the pro­ce­dure on sev­eral more pa­tients.

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