A new study from the Universite de Montreal found that parts of the brain may still be active after flat lining on an electroencephalogram (EEG), leading experts to debate the criteria for declaring a patient “brain dead.”
Researchers put 26 cats under deep anesthesia and monitored brain activity in the cortical region of the brain and the hippocampus. They found that every single cat had a “ripple event” of brain activity in their hippocampus after the EEG flat lined, the Los Angeles Times reported.
"Flat line was the deepest known form of coma," said study researcher Florin Amzica, according to Discovery.
The study replicated what Romanian doctors found in a human patient who had lapsed into a coma while taking anti-seizure medication.
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“It’s a new frontier in brain functioning,” said Amzica. Showing that "there's a deeper form of coma that goes beyond the flat line, and during this state of very deep coma, cortical activity revives."
The results suggest that a human could survive an extremely deep coma, the researchers say. Doctors could medically induce such a coma to preserve brain function, stop brain atrophy.
However Amzica says this might not translate to comatose patients suffering major brain damage. The study was done on healthy brain, not injured ones.
The study was published last week in PLOS One.