Electric stimulation may help improve the brain function of patients in a minimally conscious state, a case study reported in Nature reveals. A 38-year-old man who was mute and barely conscious for nearly 6 years is able to name objects, perform precise movements, and eat without the aid of a feeding tube after doctors used electrodes implanted in his brain to stimulate what's called the central thalamus.
How many patients might respond to the treatment remains unclear. The essential areas in this patient's cerebral cortex were still functioning despite severe brain injury; many who appear to be in the same condition aren't as fortunate. Deep brain stimulation was used unsuccessfully on Terry Sciavo, the brain-injured Florida woman whose case drew national attention in 2005, the New York Times reports.