- Non-invasive technique
called low intensity focused ultrasound
pulsation (LIFUP) jump-starts the nonfunctioning neural circuits and
brings man out of coma.
- LIFUP produces direct
neuro-modulation of nuclei in the thalamus non-invasively and without
affecting intervening tissues.
- The patient was able to regain
consciousness and language comprehension three days after
the experimental treatment.
- The technique opens a new door to
help treat human patients suffering from disorder of consciousness (DOC).
An ultrasound technique called low intensity focused ultrasound pulsation (LIFUP) was used by a
team of doctors to "jump-start" the non-functioning neural circuits of the
brain to awaken a 25-year-old man from coma. The ultrasound which has been
successful multiple times in animal models, has for the first time proved
effective in waking up a human from a disorder of consciousness. The UCLA study
is published in the journal Brain
The Problem of Waking up Asleep
Modern science has it made it
possible to treat and increase survival rates of even the most severe brain injuries
causing coma. However, a significant
number of patients that recover from coma, do not achieve complete recovery and wake up to a disorder of consciousness, like vegetative
state or minimally conscious state. These states cause the patients to lose all
autonomy with no treatment options available, putting a great amount of
emotional and financial stress on the family.
The Non-invasive Ultrasound that can Wake you up from Coma
pulsation (LIFUP) study was led by
Martin Monti, a UCLA associate professor of psychology and neurosurgery. The
first man to ever have received the treatment has made great progress after
waking up from coma.
The treatment method uses sonic waves to stimulate the neurons in
the part of the brain called thalamus which is the center for information
processing. While there are other neuro-modulatory
techniques like deep brain stimulation
and transcranial direct
current stimulation (tDCS)
, they have severe limitations. In addition to
not being able to increase a patients behavioral responsiveness, DBS is an
invasive surgical procedure that requires the implantation of devices into the
body that can lead to damage to surrounding tissue. tDCS, on the other hand is
non-invasive, but does not
achieve direct neuro-modulation, it does so by
stimulating other parts of the brain which are in contact with the thalamus,
like the pre frontal cortex.
‘Low intensity focused ultrasound pulsation (LIFUP) targeted at the thalamus “wakes up” a comatose man who suffered from severe brain damage.’
LIFUP is an alternative procedure that can directly cause neuro-modulation in the nuclei of the thalamus by not causing any harm to
the intervening tissues.
Limitations of the Study
It is important to remember that this is the first person to be
given this experimental treatment and the results may
not be applied to everyone who undergo this procedure.
The research team plan on conducting trials to determine if LIFUP could be used consistently as a treatment for
people who are in a coma.
Also, the success of this recovery
cannot be fully credited to the ultrasound technique.
"It is possible that
we were just very lucky and happened to have stimulated the patient just as he
was spontaneously recovering," Monti said.
If the technique is found to be a success, this could open a new
door to help treat patients suffering from a disorder of consciousness (DOC).
Building a low-cost, portable device to help "wake up" patients completely from
their comas, is also not far away.
- World First: Ultrasound Used to "Jump-Start" Patient's Brain out of a Coma - (https://futurism.com/world-first-ultrasound-used-to-jump-start-patients-brain-out-of-a-coma/)
- Monti, M., Schnakers, C., Korb, A., Bystritsky, A. & Vespa, P. Non-Invasive Ultrasonic Thalamic Stimulation in Disorders of Consciousness after Severe Brain Injury: A First-in-Man Report. Brain Stimulation 9, 940-941 (2016).