At the University of California, Los Angeles clinical researchers have successfully used focused ultrasound to “jump-start” the brain of a man coming out of a coma. The 25-year-old patient was barely conscious once he woke up from the coma, but soon after the initiation of treatment his condition improved measurably.
The ultrasound approach was tried as an alternative to deep brain stimulation that actually requires conductive metal leads to reach the thalamus. Deep brain stimulation can be both difficult and dangerous, so any opportunity for alternatives is very exciting.
The team used a device from BrainSonix, a company founded by one of the study authors, that delivers narrowly focused beams of ultrasound in short bursts. It was aimed at the patient’s thalamus and activated ten times for thirty seconds during a ten minute treatment session. Following treatment the patient showed signs of improvement and three days later there was marked improvement in the form of full consciousness and ability to communicate with clinicians by nodding and shaking the head.
These findings are quite promising and following the initial proof-of-concept the next steps will involve verifying the results in more patients.
Study in journal Brain Stimulation: Non-Invasive Ultrasonic Thalamic Stimulation in Disorders of Consciousness after Severe Brain Injury: A First-in-Man Report…