A coma is mysterious–the person seems to be asleep, but is impossible to wake up. Wounded Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was put into an induced coma in order to help her brain heal. Anne Strieber experienced this when an aneurysm burst in her brain. Neurologists are trying to figure out how to help these patients by studying how anesthesia works, because the brain under general anesthesia isn’t "asleep" as surgery patients are often told–it is placed into a state that is a reversible coma.
General anesthesia is a coma that is drug-induced, and, as a consequence, reversible. The states operate on different time scales: General anesthesia in minutes to hours, and recovery from coma in hours to months to years, if ever. Researcher Emery Brown says, "monitoring brain function under general anesthesia gives us new insights into how the brain works in order to develop new sleep aids and new ways for patients to recover from coma."
Neuroscientist Nicholas D. Schiff says, ‘Understanding this circuit will help us understand the relationship of brain function to consciousness in general–what it is, how it is produced, and what the variety of brain states truly are. Consciousness is a very dynamic process, and now we have a good way of studying it."
Life is full of stories and the story of Anne’s stroke and recovery (and the miracles that came from this experience) unfold in a series of her diaries. Whitley is a natural storyteller as well, and a series of his short stories can be found in the "Whitley’s Room" part of the subscriber section, often with SOUND EFFECTS.