Monday, 17 May 2010

Study Looks at Whether Familiar Voices Can Trigger Recovery from Brain Injury

Studies have shown that persons with severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) in a vegetative state, can respond to familiar voices. A new study is looking at whether listening to familiar voices can actually help patients with a traumatic brain injury recover.

The study is being funded by Theresa Pape, who is a research assistant professor at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. The study is being sponsored by the Department of Veterans Affairs. The study involves consistent and repeated exposure of familiar voices to the patient. CD recordings of the patients’ parents, siblings and others are played to the patient over and over again.

A group of 45 brain injury patients has been divided into three groups for the purposes of the trial. The high-dose group receives 10 minutes of recordings 4 times a day, over a period of six weeks. The low-dose group receives five minutes of recordings and 35 minutes of silence four times a day. The third group is a control group, where the patients don't receive recordings at all, but are made to wear headphones. After approximately six weeks, the researchers measure changes in the patient's behavioral condition, and compare them to changes in the MRI images.

The study is expected to throw more light on whether the networks of the brain relate to each other better after hearing the familiar voices. There's little that is known about how a damaged brain functions. In a normal person, the brain has no problem sending messages back and forth. When a person suffers a brain injury, the networks are twisted. Researchers are trying to figure out whether these twisted networks are capable of passing information.

Some patients in the study have shown substantial progress in the clinical trials. One patient with brain injury was incapable of making movements or following commands prior to the trial. About three weeks into the trial, he began to respond. After a while, he began to follow simple commands. About a year into the trial, the victim was able to text his friends, brush his teeth and perform some routine activities without help.

Obviously, these are encouraging results, and California brain injury lawyers will follow the progress of this research as it leads to new developments.

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