Brain Re-Ignition and Recovery After Coma and Flat Line Brain Death

Updated on March 18, 2019
Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty uses advanced degrees in preventive medicine, psychology, and TCM in research and treatment for public and private health agencies.


Can the Brain Dead Come Back to Life?

Medical science has found that some patients languishing in a coma can revive after reaching "flat line" EEG status. This recovery can occur even though the EEG has been interpreted to mean brain death. The reason for this recovery is that another coma stage exists after "flat line" and in it, the brain sparks back to life.


Brains Can Self-Start After Flat Line

The EEG "flat line" has been a standard benchmark for the official indication of death, even when other organs continue to function for a short time.

During a neuroscience study in 2013, medical researchers in Montreal, Quebec discovered in their coma patients a deeper level of consciousness at which brain activity re-ignites.This was discovered along with a heretofore unrecognized brain wave that the study leaders names the "Nu complex."

Thus far, scientists feel that given the presence of Nu-complexes in a "brain dead" patient, the brain actually can come back to life.

Considering this new information as accurate and relevant, then a flat line reading is not always the last stop before expiration of the coma patient.

This knowledge may make the decision of family members or close friends as representatives of the patient's wishes to "pull the plug" at a diagnosis of brain death even more difficult than before the new data emerged.

Types of Brain Waves


In a recent study conducted by a team led by Amzica, researchers found evidence that there are still some traces of cerebral activity in irreversible coma patients.

— Tony WU, Johns Hopkins News-Letter; October 2013

During autumn 2014, a man in a coma since late summer 2013 was revived with the scent of Chinese currency waved under his nose. Scents and sounds are powerful stimulants and can bring patients back from comas. These stimulants include the sound of a favorite TV program, the aroma of one's grandmother's cooking, and several others, according to the The Ohio State University College of Medicine and on 1-13-2015.

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The brain may survive in deeper states of coma than the ones found during the isoelectric line (flat line).

— Lead researcher, Florin Amzica.
I do not know whether I could pull the plug on a patient.
I do not know whether I could pull the plug on a patient. | Source

What Is a Coma?

The Mayo Clinic, one of the most well respected medical establishments for treatment and training in America, can tell us what constitutes a coma.

The authorities at Mayo state that a coma is a state of prolonged unconsciousness and is related to any of several problematic causes. These causes are often:

  • Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
  • Strokes (cardiovascular events)
  • Abrain tumor,
  • Drug/alcohol intoxication
  • Chronic illnesses such as diabetes
  • Long-term infections

Levels of Coma and Their Assessment

The Calder Medical Center in Miami, Florida has replaced the most-used Glasgow Coma Scale with the Rancho Los Amigos Scale (RLAS) when a patient begins to show signs of awareness and ability to respond to his/her environment.

The RLAS is more thorough in assessment, with several additional levels of consciousness or arousal state with which to work. Level I is coma.

The eight levels that use ten elements each in this RLAS rating scale range from no response to through four levels that include types of confusion to a final "purposeful and appropriate" status of behavior.

The Glasgow Coma Scale is still used to assess coma, but may need to be revised to reflect a stage of coma that comes after the EEG flat line.

Effective Coma Assessment Scales

The Glasgow Coma Scale is shown on hundreds of sites around the Internet as a straightforward 15-point scale, but a simple addition of the points in each of the three categories of examination of brain activity is not enough to provide an accurate clinical assessment of consciousness in adults or children.

Some examples of the most useful versions of the scale is located here for children and adults and also here.

Additional Coma Assessment Scales

Newer coma rating scales have not shown high enough reliability statistics to recommend widespread usage, but these scales include:

  • Blantyre coma scale
  • FOURscale
  • Simplified Motor Scale

Electricity is Life: Electrical activity in the brain indicates life.
Electricity is Life: Electrical activity in the brain indicates life. | Source

Brain Activity Found After Flat Line EEG

Researcher Amzica found evidence of brain activity after flat line resulted in not only one man, but also 26 cats in his 2013 study.

The Amzica research team found that activity in the hippocampus can transmit to the cerebral cortex after a flat lining and restore the patient to consciousness.

The team measured brain wave function of a patient that suffered cardiac arrest and revival, received drug treatment for seizures, and was in coma. Under the seizure treatments, the researchers observed a flat line EEG that was followed by EEG patterns never before recorded in the related literature.

Experiments with 26 cats found overall that an anesthetic, isoflurane, stimulated brain activity after flat line EEGs.

Study Results

After EEG flat lining, anti-epileptic medication stimulated brain activity in a human comatose patient, while isoflurane produced a similar phenomenon in the experimental cats.

Future Applications

In the future, comatose patients may have some hope of revival after flat lining, given that adequate and safe means of treatment can be developed.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Position emission tomography (PET) of cerebral glucose utilization in a normal individual.  The gray matter appears yellow-red and the white matter is green-blue and uses less glucose.PET scans comparing addictions with normal brains.
Position emission tomography (PET) of cerebral glucose utilization in a normal individual.  The gray matter appears yellow-red and the white matter is green-blue and uses less glucose.
Position emission tomography (PET) of cerebral glucose utilization in a normal individual. The gray matter appears yellow-red and the white matter is green-blue and uses less glucose. | Source
PET scans comparing addictions with normal brains.
PET scans comparing addictions with normal brains. | Source

P.E.T. Scans Can Predict Who Will Wake Up

To add to the hope that coma patients have in the future, research in 2014 has found that PET scans can reveal brain activity after flat line EEGs, without the use of anesthetics or treatment drugs:

Brain scans might show which coma patients are likely to wake up. Steven Laureys. University of Liege, Belgium. The Lancet. April 2014.


Brain Injury Awareness Can Prevent Coma and Brain Death

Doctors in the United States military services and in private practices feel that it is vital to diagnose Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) as soon as possible. This has led to concussion protocols initiated immediately in the case of football accidents and events like NASCAR race crashes.

The military is paying more attention to head injuries as well. Such protocols can reduce the possibility of coma and death in head trauma cases.

March is Brain Injury Awareness Month, especially for our military services. During this month, military medical professionals raise awareness of the TBI symptoms and the vital importance of diagnosing brain injuries.


This content is for informational purposes only and does not substitute for formal and individualized diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed medical professional. Do not stop or alter your current course of treatment. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

Questions & Answers

    © 2015 Patty Inglish MS


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      • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

        Patty Inglish MS 

        5 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

        @Barbara Kay - Thanks for your comments and sharing with your friends. Medical treatment will advance to help coma patients more fully now, I am sure.

        I met a man at church who came back to life in the funeral home at the point of embalming and the staff was flabbergasted!

      • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

        Patty Inglish MS 

        5 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

        @Lady Guinevere - I am thankful and happy that your husband recovered from his comatose state in the past and that you have a wonderful life together!

        The program you saw about the woman who came back after living a different life sounds fascinating. I've always felt that there was more to the comatose experience than medical programs have taught us and I think you have given us a good example of that.

        Thanks for sharing and and I think the more people know about this, the more people will have hope if they become comatose.

      • Barbara Kay profile image

        Barbara Badder 

        5 years ago from USA

        This is interesting and would explain people that have afterlife experiences or those that come back to life after being buried. I shared this on Facebook and hope some of my friends read it.

      • Lady Guinevere profile image

        Debra Allen 

        5 years ago from West By God

        This is such a wonderful hub. Many still have no idea how the brain works and grows. My husband, way before I met him, was in a comotose state for three day and then for three months after that he became one of his clients that he was treating. I know his mother and father were going crazy trying to figure things out with him.

        I also watched a program a long time ago and it was about a real person who went into a coma and then when she came out of it she told them of all the things that she was doing while in the coma. She was living another life and could hear the doctors and parents and all those people as if they were in a distance for her to come back. It was fascinating.

        I am sharing this all over!

      • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

        Patty Inglish MS 

        5 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

        The Ohio State University and the Wright State Colleges of Medicine are looking into this currently and when universities and teaching hospitals begin to watch such things, coma patients gain even more hope.

      • Shyron E Shenko profile image

        Shyron E Shenko 

        5 years ago from Texas

        Hello Patty, this is extremely interesting, I am glad to read this.

        Voted up, UABI and sharing.

        I hope all is well with you.

        Blessings and Hugs.

      • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

        Patty Inglish MS 

        5 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

        I look forward to finding additional studies on this topic!

      • tirelesstraveler profile image

        Judy Specht 

        5 years ago from California

        Very interesting. This has been theorized for some time; good it can now be shown.

      • BlossomSB profile image

        Bronwen Scott-Branagan 

        5 years ago from Victoria, Australia

        Such an interesting article. Thank you for sharing this information.

      • mckbirdbks profile image


        5 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

        Hello Patty, I am not sure whether to be dustrurbed by this information or impressed. The implications for the past are alarming and the future encouraging.

        You are writing on such a tear.

      • Ericdierker profile image

        Eric Dierker 

        5 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

        Really really interesting subject matter. I just find it fascinating. I think we have to just look at it as more information when dealing with the decisions that may have to be made. Tough as it may be I would want all information available.

        This should also bring great hope to many.

      • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

        Patty Inglish MS 

        5 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

        @Chris Neal - Its astounding, isn't it? At least the PET scan can help us make a decision. Thanks for reading!

      • Chris Neal profile image

        Chris Neal 

        5 years ago from Fishers, IN

        Wow! That is amazing! And you're right, it does make what is often an already agonizing decision just that much more emotional and difficult. But thank you for the information!


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