Enlarge / Information sharing across all electrodes before and after vagus nerve stimulation. On the right, the warmer colors (yellow/orange) indicated an increase of connectivity among posterior parietal regions. (credit: Current Biology)
After lying in a vegetative state for 15 years, a 35-year-old male patient in France appears to have regained minimal consciousness following months of vagus nerve stimulation, researchers report today in Current Biology.
The patient, who suffered severe brain damage in a car crash, had shown no signs of awareness or improvement before. He made no apparent purposeful movements and didn’t respond to doctors or family at his bedside.

But after researchers surgically implanted a device that stimulates the vagus nerve, quiet areas of his brain began to perk up—as did he.
His eyes turned toward people talking and could follow a moving mirror. He turned his head to follow a speaker moving around his bed. He slowly shook his head when asked. When researchers suddenly drew very close to his face, his eyes widened as if he was surprised or scared. When caregivers played his favorite music, he smiled and shed a tear.
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