A man has made “remarkable” progress waking up from a coma after scientists used ultrasound to jump-start his brain.
The 25-year-old underwent the innovative treatment, which targets sonic ultrasound waves at the thalamus – the brain’s central processing hub.
This is the first time this approach has been used to treat serious brain injury and despite the doctors anticipating positive results, the actual outcome was far more impressive.
Before the procedure began the patient had showed minimal signs of being conscious but only 24 hours after treatment he had improved measurably.
In fact three days later he had regained full consciousness and full language comprehension.
He even made a fist-bump gesture to say goodbye to one of his doctors.
Martin Monti, lead author on the study at the University of California, Los Angeles said: “It is possible that we were just very lucky and happened to have stimulated the patient just as he was spontaneously recovering.”
The procedure works by placing a small noninvasive device on the side of the patient’s head, which emits low-frequency energy that can be directly targeted at regions of the brain.
In this case, the thalamus.
Monti explained: “It’s almost as if we were jump starting the neurons back into function.”
Further study will be needed to gauge whether this is a reliable way to treat all patients over a sustained period of time.
Until now, the only way to achieve a similar result was a risky surgical procedure known as deep brain stimulation, in which electrodes are planted directly into the thalamus.
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