For 5-year-old Grant Kanning, it's as if he was never given a chance at life.

For 5-year-old Grant Kanning, it's as if he was never given a chance at life.

He was born with lissencephaly, a rare brain formation disorder that literally means he has a "smooth brain."

Grant has no folds or ridges on the surface of the brain. He can't talk, walk or eat food without a feeding tube, his parents said.

But that doesn't stop his parents from hoping.

"We have big goals, right, Grant?" said his mother, Angie Kanning. "Whether he likes it or not, we do."

Another part of Grant's condition used to be frequent and severe seizures. The seizures would last several minutes and cause Grant to scream with discontent.

"It would just break your heart to hear that," father David Kanning said.

The Kannings sought several different treatments.

First, they tried giving Grant daily steroid shots, which had little effect on his seizures. The shots had to be administered by his parents, something they disliked doing.

"We tried it, but it didn't help," Mr. Kanning said.

Later they turned to a diet based on fatty foods. David Kanning said Grant ate a lot of foods like butter and whipping cream.

Doctors believe a lack of sugar in a patient's diet can raise seizure control, Angie Kanning said.

"That was a crazy thing, too," she said. "It worked a little, but it was not very effective."

After trying a number of treatments, doctors often opt for surgery on the brain to decrease seizure occurrences, said Dr. Khaled Zamel, Grant's neurologist for the past four years at Nationwide Children's Hospital.

"In his case, the entire brain is abnormal, so we can't do much surgery," Dr. Zamel said.

There was, however, a beacon of hope.

On Dec. 26, the Demipulse 103 was installed in Grant's left chest muscle.

The device, sometimes referred to as a pacemaker for the brain, stimulates a patient's brain with electrical impulses sent through the vagus nerve located in the neck.

Through steady impulses sent to the brain, the Demipulse 103 "resynchronizes the brain waves," which reduce the frequency and severity of seizures, Zamel said.

The neurologist added that vagal nerve stimulation has been used on humans for about 15 years, but it was only recently that a device the size of the Demipulse 103, which is only about twice as big as a penny, hit the medical market.

Grant's seizures now last only a few seconds. His face begins to turn red and he begins to smile when the seizure passes.

"That was a blessing there," Angie Kanning said. "We really have seen some good things from (the Demipulse 103). We've been very fortunate with all the doctors we've had to deal with."

Currently the device works by sending impulses for 30 seconds, then it turns off for five minutes and the cycle repeats, David Kanning said.

The Demipulse 103 also comes with a magnet pendant that can be waved over Grant's chest to lessen or even stop a seizure when it occurs, Dr. Zamel said.

Without having to concern themselves with his seizures anymore, the Kannings said they now take Grant to therapy weekly, where he learns to sit, control his head, stand and communicate through pictures.

"In terms of improvement, it's definitely limited," Zamel said. "We push for more and more therapy to get as much as we can in his potentials."

David Kanning said that through therapy, Grant can work on creating pathways of interaction that should increase over time.

"I guess your brain is just what you're given," Angie Kanning said.

In the short term, David Kanning said, he would like to see Grant start eating food by mouth, instead of through the feeding tube.

In the long term, the Kannings said that they want Grant to live a happy and healthy life.

"Before he just used to sleep all day," Angie Kanning said. "Now we feel like he's more aware and alert.

"I just feel like we have Grant back."