New hope for coma patients: restarting the brain using ultrasound

New hope for coma patients: restarting the brain using ultrasound

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Ultrasound treatment wakes 25-year-olds from a coma
Thanks to the modern miracles of science, many coma patients today can wake up from their coma without negative effects. But there are still patients who suffer from severe impairment of their mental functions after waking up. Researchers have now found that ultrasound can "restart" the brain of such patients.

The scientists at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) found in an investigation that ultrasound can "restart" the brain of coma patients with severe impairments. The doctors published the results of their study in the journal "Brain Stimulation".

Some coma patients do not regain their cognitive skills
Unfortunately, there are always cases of coma patients who wake up from a coma, but then suffer from severe impairments of their mental functions. Those affected do not regain their cognitive skills after waking up, explains Dr. Martin Monti from the University of California.

A terrible situation for patients and relatives
These patients can no longer speak to their relatives. They cannot understand questions or cannot respond to them. Those affected simply don't seem to notice their entire surroundings. These people can then no longer determine what should happen to them now or how they want to be treated. Such a process is a terrible situation for those affected and their families, say the scientists.

Ultrasound affects the neurons in the human thalamus
Dr. Monti and his colleagues have made significant progress in helping such coma patients. They managed to restart the brain of a 25-year-old coma patient using ultrasound. The technique affects the neurons in the thalamus (most of the midbrain). This egg-shaped structure in the brain is used for information processing, the authors explain.

The patient wakes up from a coma and can communicate again after a few days
The person concerned woke up from his coma due to the treatment. After a few days, he was able to communicate with other people again, the doctors explain. Most drugs for coma patients only have an indirect effect on the thalamus. However, previous studies had suggested that thalamic stimulation could help patients with significant brain trauma or coma.

New treatment an alternative to dangerous surgery
The new technique could be a safe, non-invasive alternative to risky surgery, the study's authors explain. With these, the electrodes are usually implanted directly into the thalamus. Alternative treatment technology is now available. But it takes a little more work before a device with this technology is in every hospital, says Dr. Monti. An inexpensive portable device could be developed in the future. Such devices may have the shape of a helmet. These helmets could help people in a vegetative or minimally conscious state to wake up, the scientists explain.

Further research is urgently needed
Surely we need more tests, says Dr. So far, we have only managed to successfully treat a single patient. It is quite possible that we were just extremely lucky, adds the doctor. The patient's rapid recovery could be independent of the ultrasound treatment. The device has to successfully heal at least ten to twenty other patients. This is the only way to convince experts and the scientific community of the effect, explains the expert. (as)

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Video: What Happens in the Brain During a Coma? (August 2022).