Researchers help a man regain consciousness after 15 years in a vegetative state

BRISTOL, UNITED KINGDOM - MARCH 10: A real human brain being displayed as part of new exhibition at the @Bristol attraction is seen on March 8, 2011 in Bristol, England. The Real Brain exhibit - which comes with full consent from a anonymous donor and needed full consent from the Human Tissue Authority - is suspended in large tank engraved with a full scale skeleton on one side and a diagram of the central nervous system on the other and is a key feature of the All About Us exhibition opening this week. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

Doctors have a restored a man’s consciousness after he spent 15 years in a vegetative state, NY Daily News reports.

The French man, 35, was in a persistent vegetative state (PVS) after getting into a car accident when he was 20 years old. Doctors and researchers determined that the key to helping the man regain consciousness lay in his vagus nerve, the longest cranial nerve, which runs through the abdomen, chest, neck and brain. Dr. Angela Sirigu of the Institut des Sciences Cognitives Marc Jeannerod in Lyon, France, led a team to implant a device in his chest that would stimulate his nerves.

The man showed improvement within a month. He was able to physically respond to external stimuli six months later. However, doctors say that the man is not fully recovered.

“He is still paralyzed; he cannot talk, but he can respond. Now he is more aware,” Sirigu explained. He has been able to track objects with his eyes, move his head towards a person speaking to him and even cry upon hearing his favorite song.

The study successfully served as further evidence that a person has the potential to survive a vegetative state lasting longer than 12 months, which are usually thought to be lost causes.

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