Doctors treating Ariel Sharon, who has been comatose since suffering a stroke in 2006, reported Sunday they have found “significant” brain activity in the former Israeli prime minister.
Sharon responded positively to pictures of his family and audio recordings of his son’s voice, American and Israeli doctors treating him at Soroka Hospital in Beersheba told reporters.
Using a special brain imaging scan, doctors found “significant brain activity was observed … indicating appropriate processing of these stimulations,” reports the Washington Post.
The announcement is positive news in the treatment of the 84-year-old Sharon, who has been in a vegetative state and hooked up to a respirator since experiencing a debilitating stroke in 2006. It establishes that he can hear and understand the outside world, and raises the possibility that he may recover.
Sharon’s son Gilad said in October 2011 that he believed that his father responded to some requests, reports the New York Times. “When he is awake, he looks at me and moves fingers when I ask him to,” he said at the time, adding, “I am sure he hears me.”
However, neuroscientist Alon Friedman cautioned to not be over-optimistic.
“It raises the chances that he hears and understands, but we cannot be sure,” he said. “The test did not prove that.”
Sharon was a storied military officer who fought in three wars before entering politics. He unilaterally withdrew Israeli troops and settlers from Gaza in 2005.