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Author Topic: Exactly what happens to the brain when someone slips into a coma?  (Read 11443 times)

Karen W.

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Also Is this a defense mechanism the body mounts to protect from pain and trauma?

I had a friend in High School who was hit by two oncoming cars that were racing using both lanes of a blind corner on our little country road here below my  house.  She was blindsided and the car was totally smashed and spun around several times and come to a stop pointed backwards from the direction she had been coming and was now back on the slope going up hill the engine was stalled and smashed to hatties and the car was crushed around her body.. by the time we arrived after hearing the crash she was unconscious but was totally bloodied up her legs were thrashing uncontrollably into the floor board and dash as if she was trying to kick the door out.. her face was crushed and the bones were shattered in the majority of her body.. her hips both sides were destroyed... I remember pulling on the door and we tried to get to her to hold her hand and try to talk to her aqs the rescue unit took 2 hours to be able to get her out without killing her. There were car parts jammed into her body and she was really horrifically torn up.

When we finally got to a point where we could talk to her through the metal and glass I remember her eyes flicking open and she looked at me in shock and pain tried to tell her to try to be calm and quit kicking because she was hurting her self more from compound fractures in her legs in several places. Her face went calm and she relaxed but by the time they got her out they had been able to get an iv in with some kind of medication... She was slipping into coma in front of us and her face went from looking completely horrified to almost serene..Anyway she lived and recovered over many years had three children with complete prosthetic hip stuff and oodles of pins etc.. jaw was wired for months,, She was in a coma for two months....but the last month she started squeezing our hands and raising her fingers when we read to her each night,,, so there went from being no activity to little bits and eventually she came round...

So what happens to the brain during this time besides healing?

Sorry for the longevity of this post!

neilep

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Gosh Kareny Mam,

What a traumatic and shocking event to be confronted with.

I'm happy to hear your fiend made such a wonderful recovery.

Karen W.

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Yes we were all very glad also. She has since passed on from medication complications about two years ago.but she did well considering what she was dealt in her life.. do you know how coma works in the brain Neily?

Pwee

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I think I learned that coma is related somehow to the brain's general activation.

The brain's activation is defined by various factors. One of this is the level of input the brain gets.
You can imagine that the brain funcions like if it gets lots of input (lots of things going on outside, lots of sensory input flows in) it needs to pay more attention but if there is nothing interesting going on, it can relax.
This is regulated mostly by the reticular formation in the brain, it controls the general activation, attention, awekedness of the brain. If this formation gets damaged, the brain doesn't get activated enough in any time of the day for the person to gain consciousness.
Coma sometimes happen because of lack of ascending activation/stimulation to the reticular formation, so if no sensory input comes in from the limbs or other senses, the brain goes to sleep. Sometimes this happens when not neceserraly the reticular formation but the ascending neural pathways are extensively damaged (for example the spine is broken).

Althoug coma is not a I/O thing. As you have discribed it too, patients may regain cosciousness gradually (not in an instant like in the movies), as the web of the reticular fomration that spans all around the brain or the input pathways slowly heal.

I don't know if this is the full answer or this is just a part of the thing as I'm a psychologist not a neurologist.

I also don't know if it is a defensive mechanism or not, but it seems possible that a sudden overflow of sensory stimuly can cause an overactivation in the reticular formations neurons leading to a rebaund to a coma, but I don't think that this could last for too long if no cellular damage is present.

Also see the wikipedia entry for more information:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coma
« Last Edit: 06/07/2009 08:34:52 by Pwee »

Karen W.

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Thank you so much for such a nice explanation. I have often wondered what was happening in the brain in these circumstances.

I have had two friends who have spent a great deal of time in coma.... both times it was a couple months!

 

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