In 2001, a car accident left a then 20-year-old in a permanent vegetative state. Now, 15 years later, a revolutionary new technology has wakened the boy from his coma but that's not all. His parents say when he woke up, he only spoke Spanish, a language he never spoke before.
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The 20-minute procedure that gave the now 35-year-old man his consciousness back involved inserting a small implant onto the mans neck to stimulate the nerve which connects the heart, lungs and digestive tract to the brain. Up until this new treatment, it was commonly accepted that patients who were in a permanent vegetative state for longer than a year were unlikely to ever awake. The results of the treatment happened nearly instantly, first starting with simple requests like turning his head, tracking objects with his eyes and staying awake while listening to a story. Eventually he was able to fully regain consciousness and when he did he could fluently speak Spanish, something he never knew before which is baffling in itself.
The treatment was developed under the direction of Angela Sirigu at the Institut des Sciences Cognitives Marc Jeannerod in Lyon. Lyon said she and her team are very happy with the results, "This patient is like our baby. We are very attached to him. He’ll always remain in our hearts, because he’s our first patient." Lyons went on to say, "it is possible to improve a patient's presence in the world."
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