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Doctors make history by 'jump-starting' coma patient's brain with new technology

Coma patients

(NaturalNews) Scientists from UCLA recently performed a groundbreaking procedure that brought a 25-year-old man back to life. The anonymous man is the first coma patient to regain consciousness without having to undergo a dangerous and life-threatening surgery.

The procedure utilizes a newly-developed device to send ultrasound pulses into the brain. This is the first time a traumatic brain injury has been treated with this kind of technology. Just a mere three days after receiving the experimental treatment, the young man was fully conscious, responding to questions and even fist-bumped his doctor.

The success of his procedure denotes a substantial step forward in the medical understanding and treatment of traumatic brain injuries that could save millions of lives.

Lead author of the study, which was published in the journal Brain Stimulation, Dr. Martin Monti, told The Daily Mail that, "Until now, the only way to achieve [brain function] was a risky surgical procedure known as deep brain stimulation, in which electrodes are implanted directly inside the thalamus." Dr. Monti, who is also a professor of neurosurgery at UCLA, notes that their new ultrasound procedure is completely noninvasive, which is in stark contrast to earlier treatments. He said, "It's almost as if we were jump-starting the neurons back into function." There are also medications that may be used to treat coma patients, but they are only able to target the thalamus indirectly.

The study primarily focused on the thalamus, which is the part of the brain that is most impaired in a coma. The thalamus is an "egg-shaped structure relaying signals from different regions and regulating waking, alertness and arousal," and is the brain's central point of sensory activity.

Before undergoing the experimental treatment method, the patient was only showing minimal signs of consciousness. The Daily Mail reports, "He could perform small, limited movements when asked but his reactions were slow."

The device used to initiate the new treatment was recently developed by study co-author, Professor Alexander Bystritsky, who worked on the project at his bio-tech firm Brainsonix. The device, which is about the size of a saucer, was placed on the side of the man's head so that it could send pulsating ultrasonic waves into his brain and stimulate the thalamus. The new treatment, which is called "low-intensity focused ultrasound pulsation," creates a small amount of acoustic energy. This energy can then be harnessed and targeted at certain regions of the brain, such as the thalamus.

For this particular patient, treatment was administered in 10 separate, successive bouts lasting about 30 seconds each, one minute apart. After just one day, the man had made great improvements. By the third day, he had regained full consciousness and language comprehension. Dr. Monti said, "The changes were remarkable."

The researchers claim that the device uses less energy than other ultrasound machines, which renders it much safer than the Doppler ultrasound. Ultrasound devices for other uses such as tremors, chronic pain and even dementia are currently being developed.

While this is certainly an exciting discovery, you would think there would be more concern about what the long-term effects of ultrasonic waves on the brain might be. The lasting effects this ultrasound may have on an adult brain really won't be understood until more people have been treated with it; until then, this remains an experimental treatment.





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