This is one I missed a couple of months ago: Wired had an article on a novel technique that might help rouse people from coma – applying electrical currents to spinal nerves to stimulate the brain.
The surgeon mentioned in the story, Edwin Cooper, has published a number of studies on the technique, which involves applying an electrical current to the right median nerve which connects directly to the spine.
A Japanese team is attempting to do something similar, but uses electrodes implanted directly in the spine itself to stimulate the dorsal column.
The idea behind the treatment is that the electrical current travels up the spinal nerves and boosts the reticular activating system, a part of the brain stem known to be involved in arousal and motivation.
This in turn should boost the activity of higher brain centres, including the thalamus and then the cortex.
More recently, Japanese researchers have attempted to use electrodes implanted directly in the brain to increase arousal, with some success in early trials.
As an aside, Edwin Cooper is a member of the Lifeboat Foundation, a futurist organisation that aims to develop technology to save the planet from cataclysmic events such as global pandemics or holocaust.
This includes “self-sustaining space colonies in case the other defensive strategies fail”.
Needless to say, Ray Kurzweil is involved.
Link to Wired article ‘Back From the Dead’.