Vagus Nerve Stimulation Helps Man Regain Consciousness after 15 Years in Vegetative State

Published Date : Sep 26, 2017

A French man has regained consciousness after 15 years when neurosurgeons implanted a small device in his chest for vagus nerve stimulation. As per a study published Monday in Current Biology, the man, now 35, has been showing signs of consciousness after being in a vegetative state for 15 long years when he met with an accident at age 20. The researchers have been of the opinion that this study has challenged the general phenomenon that disorders related to consciousness lasting more than 12 years are irreversible.

Study author and Institut des Sciences Cognitives Marc Jeannerod neuroscientist, Dr. Angela Sirigu and her associates wanted to test the ability of vagus nerve stimulation in a vegetative state patient, and they chose the French man.

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The man had shown no signs of change, said Sirigu, putting herself and her colleagues in a difficult position where the patient had the worst outcome. However, they have deliberately selected the man so that any changes occurring in his body after vagus nerve stimulation could not be deemed as a result of chance. According to the authors of the study, the patient has shown significant improvement in his brain activity, movements, and attention.

Sirigu has mentioned that their results have exhibited major changes at the brain level. She has said that one electroencephalogram (EEG) signal previously demonstrated to differentiate vegetative from minimally conscious state patients has considerably increased. Most importantly, the brain rhythm has increased in areas that are important for awareness, body sensations, and movement.