Former Israeli Premier Ariel Sharon Has 'Significant' Brain Activity Despite Coma

Leader Responded to Voices and Family Photos: Doctors

‘Positive Indication’: Ariel Sharon, shown here in a 2005 photo, still has significant brain activity despite a severe stroke in 2006, doctors say.
getty images
‘Positive Indication’: Ariel Sharon, shown here in a 2005 photo, still has significant brain activity despite a severe stroke in 2006, doctors say.

By Reuters

Published January 27, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Seven years after suffering a massive stroke comatose ex- Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon has surprised his doctors by displaying “a certain degree of consciousness,” an expert who examined him using an MRI scan said on Sunday.

The results of tests conducted by a joint Israeli-American team did not mean the former general and right-wing politician turned peacemaker was about to wake up from the coma he has been in since a January 2006 stroke.

But doctors saw the responses displayed by Sharon, 84, in a two-hour exam on Thursday as “encouraging” that there may some day be a cure for some comas, Alon Friedman, a neurological director at Israel’s Soroka Medical Centre in Beersheba, said.

Experts at Soroka, joined by a leading U.S. neurologist, Martin Monti, of the University of California Los Angeles, scanned Sharon’s brain to test its function Friedman told Reuters in an interview by telephone.

“The chances of him getting out of bed are very, very slim,” Friedman said.

But the machine detected some brain activity, when Sharon was shown photographs of his family and also when asked to imagine his home, he said.

These findings suggest that despite Sharon’s comatose state “he might be listening, and some important information goes into his brain and is being processed,” Friedman said.

Sharon “might be awake, and there is a chance that he is conscious,” though due to paralysis suffered as a result of his stroke he cannot respond physically, he added.

“To some extent the patient is what we call ‘locked in’, he understands and responds with his brain but cannot activate any muscles.”

Friedman said Sharon’s eyes were open for at least part of the time when he responded to the sight of family photographs.

More surprising were signs the machine showed that Sharon had processed a request to imagine various scenes such as his home, Friedman said, adding that Sharon’s brain had also shown signs of responding to his son, Gilad’s voice.

“The results of the tests are not clear but encouraging, and they surprised us,” Friedman said, adding he saw the results as contributing to data about potential stimuli scientists hope may someday help them awaken certain patients from a coma.

“This is futuristic, and not the case at the moment,” he said.

Sharon’s stroke felled him at a critical juncture in Israeli politics.

Once a hard-line defence chief, Sharon made a dramatic political about-face with a 2005 Gaza pullout. His illness came just weeks after he made a dramatic exit from the right-wing Likud party to found a centrist faction in the hope of advancing peace moves with the Palestinians.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • “I don’t want to say, ‘Oh oh, I’m not Jewish,’ because when you say that, you sound like someone trying to get into a 1950s country club, “and I love the idea of being Jewish." Are you a fan of Seth Meyers?
  • "If you want my advice: more Palestinians, more checkpoints, just more reality." What do you think?
  • Happy birthday Barbra Streisand! Our favorite Funny Girl turns 72 today.
  • Clueless parenting advice from the star of "Clueless."
  • Why won't the city give an answer?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.