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Tags: bobbi | kristina | brown | coma | whitney | brain

Whitney's Comatose Daughter: What Can She Hear?

By    |   Monday, 13 April 2015 07:55 AM

Bobbi Kristina Brown has been in a coma for more than two months, but she may very well be able to hear what her family is saying at her bedside, one of the nation’s top brain researchers tells Newsmax Health.

“There is definitely a reason to keep hope alive,” said Theresa Pape, M.D., a clinical neuroscientist researching physical medicine and rehabilitation at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “There is always hope for more recovery.”

In landmark research she published in January, Dr. Pape demonstrated for the first time that comatose patients can hear what is going on around them.

What’s more, they are often able to distinguish the voices of family members and tend to recover more quickly when loved ones tell them stories.

Brown, 22, the daughter of the late singer Whitney Houston and rapper Bobby Brown, has been in a coma since Jan. 31 when she was found unconscious in her bathtub.

She is in an Atlanta-area rehabilitation facility where she remains unresponsive and on life support.

Her grandmother Cissy Houston had reported that she was opening her eyes and had smiled, but medical experts dismissed such signs as medically insignificant.

Cissy Houston has since acknowledged that the family is losing hope that Bobbi Kristina will be able to recover.

But Dr. Pape says Bobbi Kristina may still have a chance. She is not involved in Brown’s case, but Dr. Pape has worked with comatose patients for years and has come to believe that they are often more aware of their surroundings and closer to recovery than is believed.

“I have had patients who when they came out of their comas tell me that they had heard me and seen me,” she said, adding there is emerging evidence that some patients also experience a sense of touch while they are in a coma as well.

In her research, Dr. Pape studied patients who were either in a vegetative state or minimally conscious, which is a higher degree of consciousness than someone who is fully comatose.

If Brown’s family isn’t doing it already, Dr. Pape believes it would be worthwhile for them to talk to her at her bedside for extended periods. “It wouldn’t cause any harm and it might help,” she said.

Dr. Pape’s study involved 15 patients (12 men and three women) who had been in vegetative or minimally conscious states for an average of 70 days before the treatment, dubbed Familiar Auditory Sensory Training (FAST), began.

Patients were given baseline tests, and then listened to tapes of family members telling them stories that both they and the relative had experienced together. The patients were tested again six weeks following treatment. A control group was also used.

Dr. Pape and her team used MRI machines to track the patients’ brain wave activity.

She found that when patients heard the voice of a family member calling their names and reciting stories, their brains showed increased neural activity, which indicated they were using changes in the blood oxygen level in their brain regions associated with retrieving long-term memory and understanding language.

Coma patients who heard familiar stories repeated by family members recovered consciousness significantly faster and had an improved recovery compared to patients who did not hear the stories, she found.

Dr. Pape offers these steps for anyone who wants to use the FAST technique to help a family member in a coma:

• Record eight stories about experiences that you and the patient both shared. They should be no longer than five minutes each.

• Make certain the stories are meaningful and vivid. Find photos of the events to help you recall details. Bring it to life as much as possible with details about surroundings, the weather, what people are wearing, etc. The stories could be about a family wedding or a vacation. Make them about something they would remember. Bring the stories to life with descriptions of sensations, temperature, and movement, like the feel of the cold air on the patient’s face skiing down a mountain slope.

• Use the patient’s name or nickname frequently while telling the stories.

• Choose stories that precede the coma by more than year. Stories more recent may have been erased from the patient’s short-term memory, making them less likely to be therapeutic.

Since her study using this technique was published, Dr. Pape has received many emails from the families of coma patients recounting its effectiveness.

“I got an email from a man in Sydney, Australia, whose brother was left comatose following a scooter accident,” Dr. Pape. “He said he had found the article about the study, followed the directions, and his brother was doing very well.

“He said that his family was very thankful.”

© 2022 NewsmaxHealth. All rights reserved.

Bobbi Kristina Brown has been in a coma for more than two months, but she may very well be able to hear what her family is saying at her bedside, one of the nation's top brain researchers tells Newsmax Health. "There is definitely a reason to keep hope alive," said Theresa...
bobbi, kristina, brown, coma, whitney, brain
Monday, 13 April 2015 07:55 AM
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