Injured Man’s Brain Rewires, He Wakes After 19 Years

By | July 7, 2006

Injured Mans Brain Rewires He Wakes After 19 YearsAmazing. This should inspire us. Given time our brains are capable of major re-wiring to heal physical trauma.? It is hard not to imagine that an endless source of hope and will was behind Wallis’ recovery.

In 1984, 19-year-old Terry Wallis was thrown from his pick-up truck during an accident near his home in Massachusetts, US. He was found 24 hours later in a coma with massive brain injuries. Within a few weeks he had stabilised in a minimally conscious state, which his doctors thought would last indefinitely. It did indeed persist for 19 years. Then, in 2003, he started to speak.

Over a three day period, Wallis regained the ability to move and communicate, and started getting to know his now 20 year old daughter ? a difficult process considering he believed himself to be 19, and that Ronald Reagan was still president.

… The team’s findings suggest that Wallis?s brain had, very gradually, developed new pathways and completely novel anatomical structures to re-establish functional connections, compensating for the brain pathways lost in the accident. They found that new axons ? the branches that connect neurons together ? seemed to have grown, establishing novel working brain circuits.

Surprisingly, the circuits look nothing like normal brain anatomy. A lot of the damage had been to axons that passed from one side of the brain to the other, torn by the force of the accident. But Schiff says that new connections seem to have grown across around the back of the brain, forming structures that do not exist in normal brains. … Krish Sathian, a neurologist and specialist in brain rehabilitation at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, US, describes it as an amazing finding. ?The bounds on the possible extent of neural plasticity just keep on shifting,? he says. ?Classical teaching would not have predicted any of these changes.? – newsci

Leave a Reply