The new technique proved successful and could replace more evasive methods using surgery to implant electrodes.
For people suffering from comas, it can be a long journey to recovery but a team of researchers may have found a way to help the brain recover at a much faster pace.
The team from UCLA have managed to jump-start the brain of coma patients using a non-invasive technique involving ultrasound. Sonic stimulations were used to rev up the neurons in the thalamus – the part of the brain responsible for processing vital information. The usual technique involves surgically implanting electrodes into this area but the new technique is much more easy and less risky.
“It’s almost as if we were jump-starting the neurons back into function,” said Martin Monti, the lead author of the study and an associate professor of psychology and neurosurgery at UCLA. “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 noninvasive.”
The patient regained full consciousness and was able to communicate with doctors within days of the treatment. According to a UPI report, the patient in question had little comprehension of speech and almost no signs of consciousness before the procedure but once the thalamus was exposed to a small amount of acoustic energy, the patient was responding to questions and interacting with doctors.
Despite the success, more research needs to be done in order to find out if it’s safe to ‘jump-start’ a brain regularly and how the technique may respond in different patients at different stages.
Details of the study were published in the journal Brain Stimulation.