A dream of medicine could one day be a waking reality.
Generally, patients who have been in comas for a long time face long odds of waking up. But via OneZero, a newly-published study demonstrated how using electrodes to deliver jolts to a specific region of the brain associated with consciousness itself could offer hope.
The study, run by University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers and published in the journal Neuron, involved the researchers implanting electrodes in brains of macaque monkeys and using a technique called deep brain stimulation.
The researchers targeted a specific parts of anesthetized monkeys’ brains called the central lateral thalamus. When stimulated, the monkeys opened their eyes, reached and retracted limbs, moved their faces and bodies. Even their vital signs changed.
Once the stimulation ceased, though, the monkeys went back under.
Perchance to Dream
The study has years to go before practical application.
First, more tests on monkeys need to be done to see if the monkeys can perform tasks like playing video games — seriously — before falling back asleep. After that, further animals trials will have to confirm the treatment’s efficacy before ever being cleared for trials on comatose human patients.
READ MORE: A Tiny Electric Brain Implant Could Wake People in Comas [OneZero]
STUDY ABSTRACT: Thalamus Modulates Consciousness via Layer-Specific Control of Cortex [Neuron]