Scientists were successful in awaking coma patients in order to communicate with their family through ‘zapping’ their brain with a low-intensity current.
Two people in a vegetative state, and another 13 in a minimally-conscious coma, showed new signs of consciousness after getting brain stimulation.
This could be a huge step for families of people in a coma who show signs of awareness but cannot move their muscles.
Patients undergo a procedure called transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), which uses electrodes placed on the head to stimulate targeted brain regions.
A team led by neurologist Aurore Thibaut, placed the headsets over the patients’ prefrontal cortex, the area which is known to control consciousness.
Almost within two hours of receiving one ‘zap’, two patients immediately showed signs of responsiveness by moving parts of their bodies.
The team then began a second trail with 16 brain damaged patients, who had not been able to communicate for at least three months.
By the end of the week, two patients were able to answer questions by moving parts of their bodies. Another nine showed signs of awareness, while the group without brain stimulation saw no changes.
However, it’s still unknown whether the electrical currents, when applied to the scalp, reach further than the parts of the brain being targeted.
Factors such as gender, handedness, hormones, medication, etc. could impact and potentially reverse a given tDCS effect.