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Looking Ahead to World Coma Day

By Currents Editor posted 02-16-2021 16:30


By Wade Smith, MD, PhD, FNCS

It is comforting to see COVID-19 cases decline and to have a more integrated U.S. state and federal government response toward vaccination. For those of you who have submitted videos to help encourage others to get vaccinated, Sharon and I thank you.

The Curing Coma Campaign is sponsoring World Coma day on March 22, 2021. For those intimately involved with this novel idea, my hat is off to you. For those who are just hearing about this now, World Coma Day is a creation of NCS, aiming to bring world awareness to this neurocritical malady. Perhaps it sounds a bit funny to have a day about coma, but the verbiage is sticky, so you will remember it. The goal is to have an online presence for a 24-hour period circling the globe with local presenters talking about their research and why this campaign is significant. This grand idea follows the genius of the Curing Coma Campaign, which has already made important strides in organizing research internationally around the diagnosis, treatment and prognosis of altered mental status. This leadership from NCS members is something to be proud of, and I invite everyone to join in this process in any way you can. The COME-TOGETHER Coma Care Survey, a member survey regarding coma definitions and care, is still active, and you can take it here.

It is an honor for our society to lead initiatives that will have long-term impact on the lives of our patients. Think about Emergency Neurological Life Support (ENLS)®, our Advanced Practice Provider Resources, our guidelines and the Curing Coma Campaign. Much like how the term “brain attack” entered the conscience of the lay public, Curing Coma will as well. The “tipping point,” as popularized by Malcolm Gladwell, will likely be March 22, 2021, for coma.

As neuroscientists, we are all intrigued by our memory abilities, especially associative memory. It is fascinating that our neural networks can bring to consciousness the memory of an event 20 years ago simply by seeing a visual image, smelling a smell or hearing someone’s voice. This is likely faster than a Google search. Phrases like “brain attack” and “Curing Coma” stick, likely because they are novel. The more a sticky thought can be linked to a visual, the better it is encoded. If you have not read “Moonwalking with Einstein,” you are in for a treat. This book dives into how you can enhance memory using visual imagery and is likely how orators before the printing press remembered soliloquy and helped document history. Linking a semantic memory item (like a proper noun) to a visual image is an excellent method to remember someone’s name. The odder (or more scandalous) the imagery, the stickier it becomes. For me, remembering names is hard, but I have found if I link the name to imagery I can encode names well. Nate Silver, from FiveThirtyEight, was a challenge for me to remember. But picturing an old guy with silver hair allows me to preload this graphic prior to using his name and I get it right — and quickly — each time. So as NCS has branded Curing Coma, the stickiness of this word combination will likely stay with us for a very long time.
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