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Can a mother's voice spur recovery from a coma?
Date:5/10/2010

CHICAGO Karen Schroeder's voice, recorded on a CD, reminded her son, Ryan, of his 4-H project when he was 10 and decided to raise pigs. "You bid on three beautiful squealing black and white piglets at the auction," she said softly. "We took them home in the trunk of our Lincoln Town Car, because we didn't have a truck."

Recordings from Ryan's mother, father or sister were played through headphones for him four times a day. They were part of a new clinical trial investigating whether repeated stimulation with familiar voices can help repair a coma victim's injured brain networks and spur his recovery.

In January 2009, Ryan, a 21-year-old college student from Huntley, Ill., was in a coma after he had been flung from his snowmobile into a tree during an ice storm. He had a traumatic brain injury; the fibers of his brain had been twisted and stretched from the impact.

He regained consciousness after nearly one month in the trial and has made steady progress during the past year. Researchers, however, won't know for certain if the therapy helped his recovery until the study is over.

The trial is being led by Theresa Pape, a research assistant professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a research health scientist at Hines VA Hospital. Funded by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, the research may be useful to young people like Ryan as well as soldiers injured in combat, who have a high rate of traumatic brain injuries from roadside bombs.

"Traumatic brain injury is a huge issue in our society," Pape said. "Every 21 seconds, we have a new head injury and about one-third of those will be severe."

The most common cause of severe head injury in the civilian population is motor vehicle accidents, and the highest-risk group is 16-to-24-year-old males. In the military, the risk of traumatic brain injury is three times that of civilians, even in peace
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Contact: Marla Paul
marla-paul@northwestern.edu
312-503-8928
Northwestern University
Source:Eurekalert

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