AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 26, Number 3, 2017

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Brain Scans May Help Predict Recovery From Coma

Brain scans of people in a coma may help predict who will regain consciousness, according to a study published in the journal Neurology. During the study, 27 people in a coma with severe brain injuries were compared to 14 healthy people of the same ages. All of the participants had fMRI scans taken of their brains. For those in a coma, the scans were conducted after any sedative drugs were out of their systems. Three months after their injuries, four of the people with coma had recovered consciousness. The others remained in a minimally conscious state or a vegetative state at three months. All of the comatose people had significant disruption in the connections between brain areas and the posterior cingulate cortex. These changes were the same whether the brain injury was due to trauma or to lack of oxygen, such as from cardiac arrest. The researchers found that the coordination of activity between the posterior cingulate cortex and the medial prefrontal cortex was significantly different between those who went on to recover from the coma and those who remained in a minimally conscious state or a vegetative state. The coordination between the two brain areas was the same for the healthy participants and those who regained consciousness. The study’s author said that more research is needed before these results can be used to guide decisions about people in comas. To read more about this study, click here.

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