February 2, 2021 | David F. Coppedge

A Sound Mind Is Reborn

Is ultrasound a path into the minds of some “locked-in” patients?

Scientists jump-start two people’s brains after coma (MedicalExpress.org). Exciting prospects have been raised with a few successful demonstrations using ultrasound to revive patients locked in a coma. While this is not a potential intervention suitable for every kind of coma or for those in a persistent vegetative state, it may offer some family members a means of re-establishing communication with certain comatose individuals.

In 2016, one patient made significant progress when Martin Monti at UCLA used ultrasound to jump-start the brain of a patient in a coma. Now, more progress is being reported with additional patients:

Now, Monti and colleagues report that two more patients with severe brain injuries—both had been in what scientists call a long-term “minimally conscious state”—have made impressive progress thanks to the same technique. The results are published online in the journal Brain Stimulation.

“I consider this new result much more significant because these chronic patients were much less likely to recover spontaneously than the acute patient we treated in 2016—and any recovery typically occurs slowly over several months and more typically years, not over days and weeks, as we show,” said Monti, a UCLA professor of professor of psychology and neurosurgery and co-senior author of the new paper. “It’s very unlikely that our findings are simply due to spontaneous recovery.”

Two of three patients treated showed a positive response. A car accident victim five years into his coma did not respond. Much remains to be learned, therefore, about how and why some patients respond to the ultrasound touch.

One is a 56-year-old man who had suffered a stroke and had been in a minimally conscious state, unable to communicate, for more than 14 months. After the first of two treatments, he demonstrated, for the first time, the ability to consistently respond to two distinct commands—the ability to drop or grasp a ball, and the ability to look toward separate photographs of two of his relatives when their names were mentioned.

He also could nod or shake his head to indicate “yes” or “no” when asked questions such as “Is X your name?” and “Is Y your wife’s name?”

The other patient, a female, was even less conscious in her coma but now recognizes objects and speech. Consider how exciting even these small steps at communication are to the family members.

Monti focused acoustic energy on the thalamus, a brain region that acts as a central processing hub. He believes that if the treatment continues to show progress, the ultrasound therapy could be delivered at home. The device uses less energy than conventional ultrasound and appears to be well tolerated without other physiological effects.

The article offers typical precautions about what types of disorders might respond to ultrasound and which will probably not. Results of clinical trials, as usual, may be years away.

See also “Seven Reasons the Soul Can’t Be Turned Off” at Evolution News, Feb 1, 2021. Dr Michael Egnor, neurosurgeon, explains errors in the secular view of consciousness.

This is hopeful news for many who wait years for their family members to “wake up” and communicate again. On rare occasions, spontaneous recovery can occur quickly. The recovered patients sometimes remember everything that was being said about them, even though they could not respond while in the coma.

The mind-body problem is a big issue in psychology and philosophy. Here is more evidence that the mind, soul or whatever one wishes to call it, is not material. It is just as real as the brain, but is not the brain. When the brain becomes damaged, a frustrated mind may have no way to use the physical brain by choice, just like a frustrated pilot may be unable to use the cockpit controls when they go on automatic pilot and will not submit to commands. When the control tower re-establishes connection to the pilot, it can be the start of something big. One can build on that communication and make progress.

It’s chilling to think of how many people with working minds have been allowed to die simply because it was assumed that a “brain dead” person is not really there. Every human being deserves respect for the exceptional mental natures we possess. Only recently have indications been coming forward that a person can be “locked in” and yet be very much aware (5 Feb 2017, 12 Nov 2016). A decision to let die should, therefore, be made with the utmost of caution after all avenues of communication have been exhausted, and should be done with the greatest amount of mercy. 

 

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