Sedative drug has opposite effect on brain injured man

Man has spent thousands of years studying the human body. We've pretty well nailed down the various parts. We even have a fairly solid idea about how the various systems -- respiratory, circulatory and nervous -- function to keep things working. But the full picture about how the brain works continues to be a little blurry.

Those of us in Alabama who regularly deal with the aftermath of catastrophic brain injuries know that there are some cases in which indomitable human spirit overcomes the adversity. Readers of this blog may recall one such story not too long ago about a young artist who, despite being unable to use her hands after a freak shooting incident, has carried on her work by wielding her brushes in her mouth.

Such stories are not only inspiring for what they say about our resiliency, they also tend to be inspiring to neuroscientists striving to uncover the mysteries of the brain. As they make new discoveries, it allows for some optimism about the possibility of a brighter future for those who have suffered severe trauma due to others' negligence.

For now, such advances are incremental. And yet, as a case out of Italy shows, even these can be encouraging. According to a report by Live Science, a man had been in a serious car accident. He spent 40 days in a coma before reaching a state of minimal consciousness. When he left the hospital 10 months later, he could not talk. Over time he began to slide cognitively. He moved abnormally slowly and began performing aimless, repetitive actions.

About two years after the accident, doctors sought to do a CT scan on the man. They administered a sedative common for such procedures and discovered several minutes later that the patient was talking and interacting with others. It didn't last. Further research revealed the drug had activated an area of the brain that is inactive in patients with catatonia.

The findings eventually led to a drug regimen that has allowed the man to sustain his abilities to interact and communicate with others.

This is an uplifting story, but it can't be considered typical. More often, those suffering severe brain trauma face a tough future with expenses that can be crippling. To seek help with that hardship, victims should consult an experienced attorney.

Source: Live Science, "2 Years After Car Crash, Man in 'Minimally Conscious State' Suddenly Speaks," Agata Blaszczak-Boxe, Jan. 6, 2015

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