UCLA researchers used sonic stimulation on the thalamus of a man that was coming out of the coma. The treatment helped the patient restore its cognitive functions and the ability to communicate.
Coma treatment usually involves patience and waiting. The researchers wanted to find new ways to help patients get out of the state of unconsciousness and restart their lives.
The first experiment was done on a man of 25 years old, who regained consciousness within days after being exposed to sonic stimulation. The researchers used a small device aiming acoustic energy to the thalamus.
The thalamus is a structure inside the brain that can process information. More often than ever, the coma patients have the functions of the thalamus diminished, and when they woke up, they have an impaired mental condition.
Most medications for patients target the thalamus in an indirect way. However, studies have shown that direct stimulations to the brain area will help patients with coma and brain injury.
The previous experiments used electrodes that were implanted into the brain, and the process is exposing the patients to risks.
After the sonic stimulation had started, the researchers expected not to see the man understand what was going on around. They looked for yes or no gestures. However, the modifications were incredibly surprising.
The Sonic Stimulation Cure
Before the treatment, the man barely understood speech and had vague signs of consciousness.
The sonic stimulation involved ten signals of 30 seconds each repeated during a period of 10 minutes.
The improvements started even from the first day of the treatment. In three days, he was completely conscious; he used signs to respond questions and even bumped to say goodbye, according to the rules.
After this first success, the scientists want to test the procedure on other coma patients. In the future, the researchers will include the device in a cost-effective helmet and to distribute it in hospitals to help people get better after a coma.
However, there are still details to be figured out before using the method to wake patients from comas. There is a chance that the positive results were caused by a mere coincidence, and the researchers used the sonic stimulation just at the same time with the patient waking spontaneously from the coma.
Therefore, the researchers will try to improve the treatment and to repeat the procedure to have a better grasp of its efficiency and its possible side effects.
Image Source: Wikipedia