Brain Injury Aftermath: Can Consciousness be Restored After an Injury?

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People who are living in a vegetative state are often considered a hopeless situation, but for the first time, a study suggests that restoring consciousness with vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) may be possible for those who have fallen in to a prolonged comatose state.

In the study, a group of French researchers restored a minimal level of consciousness to a person in a long-term coma by continuously stimulating his vagus nerve, which connects the brainstem to major organs, including the heart and stomach.

Is Waking up from a Coma Possible?

Per the Mayo Clinic, a coma is a prolonged unconsciousness that can be caused by a variety of things such as traumatic head injury, stroke, brain tumor – or even an underlying illness, such as diabetes or an infection.

While in a coma, the part of the brain that controls thought and behavior no longer functions, but the parts of the brain that control vital functions, such as breathing and heart rate continue to work. While people in a coma often show signs of partial consciousness, many experts consider any vegetative state that persists beyond 12 months to be permanent.

Now, the new research published in Current Biology, challenges the long-held belief that consciousness disorders are irreversible once they have continued for more than a year.

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