HealthDay News reported on August 1, 2007 that JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute was able to partially rekindle the mind of a man who had suffered from brain damage and had been in a minimally conscious state for six years.
This patient was the first of 12 to try deep brain stimulation in a U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved trial. In order for this method to be used, the individual must undergo an operation in which electrodes are implanted in the brain and used to stimulate the thalamus on both sides of the brain. The electrodes are placed to facilitate and augment already existing neural networks, exercising the individual’s brain and re-enforcing those pre-existent pathways. The device is then fine-tuned for optimum stimulation followed by no stimulation cycles.
This particular study showed marked improvement within 48 hours. The patient was able to turn his head in response to voices, and with a little more time he was able to name and use objects, when previously he was unable to speak at all.
This patient continues to improve outside of the trial with the stimulator in
place,” Fins said. “But we’re in uncharted territory about what kind of degree
of recovery he might ultimately achieve.”
“It’s very dicey stuff, brain injury, because the next patient we enroll in the study, that brain injury will not be the same because no two are alike,” Giacino said. “We need to continue to replicate the findings and figure out who would benefit from this.”
Dr. Jonathan Friedman, director of the Texas Brain and Spine Institute, agreed. “This could have huge implications but it’s all speculative with just one patient,” he said. “Every head injury is very different. It’s probably naive to think we could stimulate every patient in the same way, although some might benefit even more.”