The treatment involved implanting a device in the man's chest to electrically stimulate the vagus nerve, which extends into the brain
, photo: AP/David Duprey
25 of September 2017 16:16:04
NEW YORK – French researchers say they restored some signs of consciousness in a brain-injured man who hadn't shown any awareness in 15 years.During months of experimental treatment, his gaze could follow a moving object and he turned his head toward people speaking to him. He could also turn his head when asked to do so, and his eyes widened when a researcher suddenly came very close to his face, the researchers reported.The treatment involved implanting a device in the man's chest to electrically stimulate the vagus nerve, which extends into the brain. The technique is sometimes used for depression or to reduce the number of seizures in epilepsy. The vagus nerve, which also reaches down into the abdomen, plays many roles including slowing the heartbeat and controlling muscles of the small intestine.During the treatment, the man also shed tears and smiled while listening to a favorite song by French singer Jean-Jacques Goldman. The tears might have been the result of the nerve stimulation, said Angela Sirigu of the Marc Jeannerod Institute of Cognitive Science in Lyon, France, which is affiliated with the National Center for Scientific Research. Because of brain damage, the man could not speak, she said.Sirigu is an author of a study released Monday by the journal Current Biology.