Simply Beyond Cool: "Man's brain rewired itself, doctors contend"

by Diane Duane

I love it when things like this happen. Once again neuroscience gets stood on its ear…

Terry Wallis awoke from a coma-like state 19 years after tumbling over a guardrail in a pickup truck and falling 25 feet into a dry riverbed. Now doctors armed with some of the latest brain-imaging technology think they may know part of the reason why.

Wallis showed few outward signs of consciousness, but his brain was methodically rebuilding the white-matter infrastructure necessary for him to interact with the outside world, researchers reported yesterday in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

…Using both Positron Emission Tomography scans and an advanced imaging technique called diffusion tensor imaging, the researchers examined Wallis’s brain after he regained full consciousness, and found that cells in the relatively undamaged areas had formed new axons, the long nerve fibers that transmit messages between neurons.

…Dr. Steven Laureys, a neurologist at the University of Liege in Belgium, said the findings will force doctors to reconsider the way they treat patients who are in minimally conscious and persistent vegetative states.

Damn straight it will. (And I’m afraid the repressed researcher in me is screaming, “Someone take a real close look at this guy’s DNA”!! — as another doctor cited in the article correctly points out that in the normal scheme of things, this man’s recovery is a one-in-three-hundred-million kind of thing.)

But the point in the article where I just had to laugh out loud:

In his last few years at Stone County Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Mountain View, Ark., Wallis’s family began to notice that Terry, a Ford enthusiast, would grunt when a Chevrolet commercial came on the television.

Sometimes serendipity dresses up in really strange costumes…

Now playing: Duke EllingtonSatin Doll

[tags]brain, neurology, rewired, coma, recovery, neuropsychiatry, white matter, corpus callosum[/tags]

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