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TMS Aid US Coma Patient

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TMS Aid US Coma Patient

A US patient left in a coma-like state after a road accident recovered the ability to speak after TMS – repeated exposure to a magnetic field.

A US patient who was left in a coma after a severe road accident regained the ability to speak after repeated exposure to a magnetic field.

The patient, Josh Villa, had not been expected to recover from the massive head injuries, but when doctors applied a technique known as “transcranial magnetic stimulation”, he began to speak simple words and respond to commands.

Dr John Whyte, a Philadelphia-based doctor with the Moss Rehabilitation Research Institute said,
“I believe that electromagnetic treatments such as deep brain stimulation, direct current transcranial stimulation, and TMS may all have therapeutic promise.”

josh villa coma victim TMS Aid US Coma Patient

Josh Villa, 26, suffered massive head injuries when he was thrown through the window screen of his car, the accident left Josh in a coma-like state. Almost a year later he was able to open his eyes but was unable to respond to any kind of external stimulus.

Dr Theresa Pape, from the US Department of Veterans Affairs, decided to enroll Josh in a six-week program which involved subjecting him repeated sessions under an electromagnetic field.

The electromagnetic coil was placed over the front of Josh’s head with the hope of stimulating activity in the “dorsolateral cortex” – a part of the brain which sends stimulating messages to other parts of the brain.

After 15 sessions Josh began to make eye contact with people talking to him, shortly afterward he started obeying simple commands such as following the following the movement of a thumb or finger, he also started to talk single words “help” or “erm”.

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After a total of 30 sessions, Josh showed no further improvement and was sent home to be cared for by his mother.

After 30 sessions with no further improvement, Josh was sent home to be cared for by his mother who says the treatment has made it far easier to look after him.

Despite the promising results of the TMS performed on Josh, Dr White also explained that even after eight months, spontaneous improvement of this type was “not uncommon”.

He suggested that magnetic stimulation may not have been entirely responsible for Josh’s recovery.

“Proving their [TMS and direct current transcranial stimulation] efficacy is very challenging because of the confounding and highly variable effects of natural recovery,
“So single cases provide very weak evidence except when treatment occurs very late (so spontaneous recovery should be minimal) and the patient is studied for a considerable interval both before and after the treatment.”

TMS has produced promising results when used to treat stroke patients, and those with spinal cord injuries. And although it is hard for doctors to predict the extent to which brain-damaged patients will recover after falling into a coma, Chicago-based scientists now plan to further research TMS to see if therapy works in other patients.

Dr Pape is also preparing a treatment program for another patient in a coma-like state.

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