A curious case report discussed in today's New York Times:
Man Regains Speech After Brain Stimulation
By BENEDICT CAREY
Published: August 1, 2007
A 38-year-old man who spent more than five years in a mute, barely conscious state as a result of a severe head injury is now communicating regularly with family members and recovering his ability to move after having his brain stimulated with pulses of electric current, neuroscientists are reporting.
The new report, which appears in the journal Nature, provides the first rigorous evidence that any procedure can initiate and sustain recovery in such a severely disabled person, years after the injury occurred. An estimated 100,000 to 300,000 Americans subsist in states of partial consciousness, and most are written off as beyond help.
Doctors said it was not clear how many such patients would benefit from the treatment, in which two wire electrodes are implanted deep in the brain. The procedure also raises sticky ethical questions about operating on patients who cannot give their consent, they said.
“We really see this as a first step, but it should open doors that have not been open before for patients like this,” said Joseph T. Giacino, associate director of neuropsychology at the JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute and the New Jersey Neuroscience Institute, in Edison. Dr. Giacino performed the study with doctors from the Weill Cornell Medical College and the Cleveland Clinic Foundation.
[ ... Read the full report ... ]