VNS (Vagus Nerve Stimulation) is a therapy sometimes used in patients with epilepsy when other treatments have failed. The VNS works by calming or interrupting abnormal electrical activity which can lead to a seizure.
Researchers decided to implant a VNS in a 35 year old patient who has been in a vegetative state for 15 years due to a brain injury sustained in a car accident. The VNS was inserted into the patients chest and stimulated his vagus nerve which runs from the base of the head to the abdomen.
After a month of stimulation the patient showed some improvement in consciousness. Researchers marked his ability to turn his head and react to visual stimulation, such as his eyes getting wider as they came closer to him. They also noted brain scans showed improved function. After five months on the VNS the initial improvements were sustained.
Researchers, Neurologists and Professors say that while the study is hopeful, it’s not definitive. The study involved one patient who had been in a vegetative state that long. They said there were other study’s that showed marked improvements in TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) when using VNS. They went on to say that more research is needed and warranted.