Why do comas happen and how does it work internally?

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Why do comas happen and how does it work internally?

In: Biology
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Normal brain activity has specific wave patterns. This is true whether you’re awake or asleep; the waves are just different during the sleep stages compared to being awake.

During a coma, your brain is neither awake not asleep. It’s not dead, the cells are alive and activity may be occuring. But it isn’t totally normal. This is usually caused by some kind of trauma to the brain, or it can be medically induced.

Because brains are complicated, recovering from coma is also a long process. People don’t just suddenly “wake up.” Gradually, normal brain activity recovers. The person may graduate from totally unresponsive to showing signs of minimal reflex behavior. Then they may slowly recover functions like opening their eyes, mumbling, and twitching. Then slowly they may be semi-conscious. They’ll respond to verbal instructions, but don’t seem to be totally aware of things.

The longer someone is in a coma, the less likely they will recover though. And it’s possible they may never recover all the way. Depends on the underlying trauma, too, of course.

A coma is a symptom, it means that you aren’t asleep, but you aren’t responding to normal stimuli like a healthy person would.

The symptom of a coma can have many different potential causes. Generally it happens when brain damage occurs, and the brain partially (or completely) shuts down in response. The damage can be minor, major, or catastrophic. Depending on the amount of damage and the cause, the coma may be temporary, it may be permanent, or it could be part of a progression towards death.

As previously mentioned, what is happening internally will depend on the cause and severity of the brain damage. In a minor coma, the brain shuts down a lot of the regular movement and thought centers as a safety precaution to prevent further damange, then slowly wakes them back up. This is different from regular sleep, where your brain remains very active even though you aren’t moving or awake.

In a very severe coma, the patient isn’t awake because a large part of the brain has been effectively destroyed, and only the very basic functions like breathing are still working. You can’t recover from something like this because the brain’s ability to regenerate damage tissue is pretty limited.