Brain Damaged Man Incapacitated for Six Years Imrpoves After Electrode Help

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 2, 2007   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Brain Damaged Man Incapacitated for Six Years Imrpoves After Electrode Help

Email this article
Printer friendly page

by Steven Ertelt Editor
August 2,

Edison, NJ ( — A brain damaged man who had been in an incapacitated state for about six years has partially recovered from it thanks to an experimental surgery where doctors brought his brain back to life using electrodes. The surgery gives hope to disabled patients like Terri Schiavo who some say can’t recover from similar injuries.

The unnamed man was in a minimally conscious state was brutally beaten and his skull severely injured after he was robbed six years ago.

At the time, his physicians claimed he would be in an incapacitated state the rest of his life.

However, in August 2005 the 38 year-old man’s parents allowed doctors to begin a six month experiment on him using deep brain stimulation. It involves using pulses of electric current through electrodes.

Doctors implanted two wire electrodes deep into the man’s brain that has frequently been used to treat people suffering from Parkinson’s disease.

Before their efforts, he could respond to questions on occasion by moving his thumb or nodding, but was essentially mute and unable to move.

By last October, the treatment reportedly restored some of a brain-damaged man’s speech and movement.

Now he is eating again and talking fully and able to do significantly more activities than he could before.

"My son can now eat, speak, watch a movie without falling asleep," the man’s mother told the New York Daily News. "He can drink from a cup. He can express pain. He can cry and he can laugh.

"The most important part is he can say, ‘Mommy’ and ‘Pop.’ He can say, ‘I love you, Mommy,’" she added.

Dr. Ali Rezai, a Cleveland Clinic brain doctor who did the surgery, told the newspaper that the process gives hope to incapacitated patients like Terri Schiavo that more research in this area could lead to the ability to bring people out of comas or improve their conditions.

"We have to do more research … but I think down the line it will change the way we are treating or even looking at people with severe brain injury," said Rezai.

He indicated the treatment would mostly be beneficial for patients who already have some responsiveness.

Terri Schiavo received the treatment as well but some experts say she received it too soon after her collapse for it to have made much of a difference.

The federally funded experiment will soon progress to treating 11 other patients.

The research team in the case works at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell, the JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute in Edison, N.J., and the Cleveland Clinic Foundation.