After 15 years in a vegetative state, a man is responding to vagus nerve stimulation therapy, a treatment currently used to treat depression and epilepsy.
The man, who suffered a traumatic brain injury in a car crash at 20, showed signs of a “minimally conscious” state after receiving an experimental form of low-intensity nerve stimulation, Science magazine reported on Monday.
The vagus nerve stimulation treatment involved implanting a palm-sized, disk-shaped stimulator that gives off miniscule electrical shocks — less than a hundredth of the electrical current in a battery-powered wrist watch — to the vagus nerve.
The nerve is a critical brain signal superhighway that delivers information from the brain stem to the heart, esophagus, lungs, digestive tract, and other parts of the body, per Science.
The medical team, led by Angela Sirigu, a cognitive neuroscientist at the Institute for Cognitive Sciences–Marc Jeannerod in Lyon, France, implanted the nerve stimulator