Medical

Two more coma patients' brains jump-started with ultrasound

Two more coma patients' brains...
In the treatment, known as low-intensity focused ultrasound, ultrasonic stimulation is used to excite neurons in the thalamus
In the treatment, known as low-intensity focused ultrasound, ultrasonic stimulation is used to excite neurons in the thalamus
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In the treatment, known as low-intensity focused ultrasound, ultrasonic stimulation is used to excite neurons in the thalamus
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In the treatment, known as low-intensity focused ultrasound, ultrasonic stimulation is used to excite neurons in the thalamus

Five years ago, we heard how a team at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) had used ultrasound to seemingly "jump start" a patient out of a coma. At the time, the scientists wondered if such results could be repeated, or if their success was just a one-off. They have now done it two more times.

In the 2016 case, a team led by Prof. Martin Monti utilized a coffee cup saucer-sized device to deliver stimulating pulses of low-intensity focused ultrasound to the thalamus of a 25 year-old coma patient. The thalamus acts as the brain's central processing hub, and it is typically weakened in coma patients.

After receiving the treatment, the patient improved dramatically. Whereas he previously only showed minimal signs of consciousness, he was now fully awake, able to understand questions, and capable of responding by shaking or nodding his head. At the time, though, the researchers wondered if they might have just gotten lucky – they may have treated the patient at the same time that he was coming out of the coma on his own, or his brain might have been uniquely receptive to the treatment.

Now, though, Monti and colleagues have announced that they recently experienced two more successes.

One case involved a 56 year-old man who had been in a minimally conscious state for over 14 months since suffering a stroke. After his first ultrasound treatment, he was consistently able to drop or grasp a ball when told to do so, and to look toward either of two photographs of relatives when their names were mentioned. After the second treatment, he was additionally able to raise a bottle to his mouth, use a pen and paper, and to verbally communicate.

The second case involved a 50 year-old woman who had been in an even less conscious state ever since she experienced a cardiac arrest two and a half years earlier. After her first treatment, she was able to recognize objects such as a comb and a pencil – something she hadn't been able to do since entering her coma.

In both cases, treatment consisted of placing the ultrasound device on the side of the patient's head, then activating it 10 times for 30 seconds each within a 10-minute period. Both patients underwent two such sessions, spaced a week apart. The scientists state that the treatment is safe and produces no unwanted side effects, as the relatively small amount of energy emitted by the device is less than that used in a traditional Doppler ultrasound scan.

It should be noted that the treatment had no effect on a third patient, a 58 year-old man who had been in a coma for five and a half years after being in a car accident. Nonetheless, the scientists are pleased with the two successes they did have.

"What is remarkable is that both exhibited meaningful responses within just a few days of the intervention," says Monti. "This is what we hoped for, but it is stunning to see it with your own eyes. Seeing two of our three patients who had been in a chronic condition improve very significantly within days of the treatment is an extremely promising result."

Additional studies are now being planned. The scientists state that a portable commercial version of the device – which could be routinely used in hospitals or even in patients' homes – probably won't be available for at least another few years.

A paper on the research was recently published in the journal Brain Stimulation.

Source: UCLA

6 comments
6 comments
Joe Silverman
Stimulus of the Thalamus using ultrasound is dependant on the frequency and intensity of the signal.
It is my belief that on patients who have been in a comatose state for more than 12 months may require a variance between a shorter & longer wavelength in quick succession and a stimulus period of 1 minute on and 1 minute off for 10 minutes to trigger a response.
My belief is that the variance in the frequency wavelength will produce a 'wave' action through the body of the Thalamus, creating a reaction in the nerves to create new connections between the Thalamus and the Hypothalamus.
If any further research is done, I would hope this type of technique is considered.
JackBenny
This is pretty exciting news. Hopefully they might be able to develop viable treatments for comma patients in the future from this research! Hopefully it will be expandable to other parts of the brain which are damaged or not working correctly as well.
guzmanchinky
That is incredibly astonishing. Just the thought of being in a coma for years is beyond terrifying.
Expanded Viewpoint
This becomes VERY less surprising, when one looks at some of the videos on You Tube about using various frequencies to heal ailments. They are typically in the audio range and their power density is quite low.
Rife knew about the healing power and effects of frequencies and demonstrated them for many years, but the medical community shut him down and drove him into alcoholism for being a threat to their VERY lucrative monopoly on the health markets! There is FAR more money to be made in treatments than in cures, so what is really surprising to me, is that any M.D.s would dare to pursue such an idea in the first place! All that it takes to effect great changes in society, is for a few good men and women to step forth, and I for one, am glad indeed that these people decided to step up to the plate and try to do more good than harm.
The old philosophy of "cut, poison and burn" as the only medical treatments that are allowed, MUST come to an end, and soon!

Randy
Marco McClean
Also something like this could work as an alarm clock for people who have a hard time waking up. Their alarm is ringing and ringing and you're like, "Get up! Or just turn off the alarm!" You could go in and hold this thing against their head and they'd sit right up and identify a pencil or a comb, or answer a question by nodding or shaking their head. And go from there, and not be late for work.
bahbah
If stimulation of the thalamus does the trick, maybe it could also work with radio-wave or even electrical stimulation, which has been proven to work for Parkinson’s disease.