This report of a 35-year-old man who had a severe traumatic brain injury and had been in coma, found that stimulation of the brain by stimulating the vagus nerve could bring him to a state of awareness.
While removed from a state of unresponsiveness to an ability to follow objects with his eyes, and turn his head when asked, he demonstrated no ability to communicate to the medical staff, or care for himself.
This story is an intriguing display of the ability to use new techniques to improve the function of the brain. However, as one who cares for those with such injuries, I felt an immediate concern for the patient and the family. In cases where I have assisted in advancing patients to a level of awareness, without the ability to interact with the environment, I have wondered whether the quality of life was in fact harmed.
These have been among my more troubling moments as a doctor.
We will have to wait and see whether such advances can be refined to allow patient to move beyond constant medical care and rejoin their families.