Rutgers Researcher Finds More Awareness in Coma Patients

By Michael Hill

Melissa Carleton Lande was seven months pregnant and complaining of constant, debilitating migraines. On her third trip to the ER, an MRI determined she had a large tumor on her right frontal lobe. Days before surgery, she had a seizure and slipped into a coma.

“She has not been able to successfully emerge from that even though they were able to remove the tumor in its entirety,” said husband Brian Lande.

Brian Lande is Melissa’s husband and a research associate who didn’t trust the doctors’ assessment of Melissa’s recovery.

But, he believed Rutgers University‘s Dr. Elizabeth Torres could properly assess his wife.

Torres and her team of doctoral and post-doctoral assistants receive numerous federal grants to study a variety of neurological disorders like autism and have a patent pending.

Lande called Torres who said she didn’t know if she could help but suggested Lande get wrist sensors — more sophisticated than an Apple watch — and put two on Melissa and electronically send Torres the data.

In May, Melissa was rubbing her belly and gave birth by C-section. Torres only saw a spike on the chart and called Lande.

“Well I said, ‘Oh my god Brian, we need to publish these results.’ I was just thinking as a scientist because this has never been done,” Torres said.

Dr. Torres says the data showed Melissa’s brain re-wiring, that her brain and nervous system were directing her movements.

“What this tells me is that Melissa is that she’s there, she’s trying and that we should not give up on her. We should actually try and rehabilitate that body-brain connection,” Torres said.

The results of Dr. Torres measuring Melissa’s physical movement using these wrist sensors raises the question about whether the medical profession using just the naked eye is misdiagnosing those in a coma.

“It’s not accurate at all. The human eye can not sample at frequencies and time scales can sample. We miss a lot of what’s going on just by using the naked eye,” Torres said. Does it mean that some people are misdiagnosed? “Very probable. Very probable. Possible,” she said. Frightening? “It is and it happens all the time not just in comatose patients, but in every single neurological disorder that is diagnosed like this,” she said.

“Melissa is still emerging from a comatose state. So she is now able to verbalize and is able to moan and groan,” Lande said.

Lande says Melissa is making progress. Dr. Torres has applied for a patent and published her study of Melissa in the Frontiers in Human Neuroscience and sparking a lot of interest across the glove.