How can we help severely brain-damaged people to regain consciousness? Researchers from the University of Liège’s Coma Science Group showed that in some patients in a minimally conscious state, transcranial direct current stimulation encourages the recovery of cognitive and motor skills. But while 43 % of the patients in a minimally conscious state who were studied showed a temporary improvement, 57 % of them manifested no change at all. Furthermore, patients in a vegetative state/unresponsive wakefulness syndrome don’t benefit in any way from transcranial direct current stimulation. Why? Researchers from the Coma Science Group are currently trying to find an answer to this question. Publication in the journal, Neurology.
As regards patients in a vegetative state/unresponsive wakefulness syndrome or in a minimally conscious state, specialised centres deploy different strategies to encourage a return to a state of consciousness worthy of this name, where the patient is able to communicate. Sometimes their limbs are mobilised, sometimes music therapy is applied, or sometimes the patient is placed in special light conditions... "The problem is that none of these approaches have proven their effectiveness", points out Professor Steven Laureys, head of the Coma Science Group at the University of Liège (Cyclotron Research Centre and the Neurology Department at Liège’s university hospital). Of course, some patients recover, but it is incredibly difficult to show that the aftercare given contributed to their recovery.