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 Man 'roused from coma' by magnetic field

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Date posted: 16/10/2008

A man in a coma for a year has started speaking since words and obeying one-step commands, after 30 treatments to the right prefrontal dorsolateral cortex with transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in Chicago.

Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) has been investigated as a way of treating migraine, stroke, Parkinson's disease and depression, with some promising results, but this is the first time it has been used as a potential therapy for someone in a coma-like state.

The rapidly changing magnetic fields that the coil creates can be used either to excite or inhibit brain cells - making it easier or harder for them to communicate with one another. In Villa's case, the coil was used to excite brain cells in the right prefrontal dorsolateral cortex. This area has strong connections to the brainstem, which sends out pulses to the rest of the brain that tell it to pay attention.

While further studies are needed to demonstrate TMS effects, the patient had only been given a 20 to 40 per cent chance of long-term recovery, and until he was given TMS his functioning had not improved since about four months after the accident. And after the 15th TMS session, he improved incrementally with each session.

"This is the first and very interesting use of repetitive TMS in coma," says Steven Laureys of the Coma Research Group at the University of Li?ge in Belgium. Our understanding of disorders of consciousness is so limited that even a single study can provide new insights, he says.

See the full Story via external site: www.newscientist.com



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