Who will wake up from a coma? Electrical jolts in the brain offer hints

A woman in medical garb attaches electric devices to the head of a patient in bed.

Enlarge / Healthcare
worker sets up an EEG on an ICU patient. (credit:
GettyBSIP
)

Researchers may have found a way to detect
inklings of consciousness
in comatose and vegetative patients
just days after they experience a brain injury—and it appears the
method may help predict which patients will rouse and recover in
the months afterward.

A team of researchers in New York recorded electrical activity
in the brains of unresponsive patients while giving them simple
spoken commands, such as “keep opening and closing your right
hand” or “wiggle your toes.” Of 104 unresponsive patients
tested, 16 (15%) showed some activity. Of those 16 patients, eight
of them (50%) went on to be able to follow spoken commands by the
time they left the hospital. A year later, seven of them (44%) were
able to function independently for at least eight hours at a
time.

In contrast, only 14% of those who showed no electrical activity
early on reached that level of recovery after a year. The results
were published this week in the New England Journal of
Medicine.

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Source: FS – All – Science – News
Who will wake up from a coma? Electrical jolts in the brain offer hints