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Physicians 'Awaken' Man 6 Years After Severe Brain Injury

Deep brain stimulation could help others in minimally conscious state, researchers say

THURSDAY, Aug. 2 (HealthDay News) -- In a scene reminiscent of Oliver Sacks' book Awakenings, physicians have managed to partially rekindle the mind of a man who had been in a minimally conscious state for six years, according to a report published in the August 2 issue of Nature.

The 38-year-old patient, who was severely brain-damaged, received deep brain stimulation and can now feed himself and communicate, activities that were unthinkable before the therapy.

This is the first time that deep brain stimulation has been used on a person with a traumatic brain injury in a minimally conscious state, and it offers some hope for others in similar situations, the researchers said.

The patient was the first of 12 patients to try deep brain stimulation in a U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved trial.

"Hopefully, this will now begin to open doors that were closed up to this point," said Joseph Giacino, study co-investigator and associate director of neuropsychology at JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute and at the New Jersey Neuroscience Institute in Edison, N.J. "There's a very nihilistic view that when a brain is badly damaged there's not much we can do to change that. We have a very tough time getting research funded because of the need to jump higher than most other research. By demonstrating that we did move the bar in this patient this late, we hope that it's going to force people to revisit this somewhat nihilistic view."

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