A 35-year-old patient who had been in a vegetative state for more than 10 years with no signs of improvement, regained some signs of consciousness and enhanced brain connectivity patterns after researches used vagus nerve stimulation.
Vagus nerve stimulation or vagal nerve stimulation (VNS) is a medical treatment that involves delivering electrical impulses to the vagus nerve, which is the longest of 12 cranial nerves extending from the brain stem to the abdomen and forms part of the involuntary nervous system responsible for unconscious bodily functions such as keeping the heart rate constant and controlling food digestion.
Electrical stimulation of the vagus nerve, called vagus nerve stimulation (VNS), is sometimes used to treat people with epilepsy or depression.
The method that the researches – at Claude Bernard University and the Neurological Hospital Pierre Wertheimer in Lyon, France – used to stimulate the vagus nerve is already approved for the treatment of epilepsy and depression, according to an article in Medical News Today.
But according to the researchers, the method was a novel way of repairing lost consciousness.
The research team is planning to take the findings to the next level with a large study involving several patients.