It has been a dramatic plot device within countless movies and soap operas, but now a new study from Northwestern Medicine and Hines VA Hospital, both in Illinois, has attempted to answer the question: can the voices of family members and loved ones really wake coma patients from unconsciousness?

A coma is defined as an unconscious condition in which the patient is unable to open their eyes. When a patient begins to recover from a coma, they progress first to a minimally conscious or “vegetative state,” though these states can last anywhere from a few weeks to several years.

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