Michael Schumacher has blinked for the first time since being placed in an artificial coma following his skiing accident and was "responding to instructions" yesterday, according to news reports.

Doctors have begun the process of reawakening the seven-time Formula One world champion four weeks after he struck his head on a rock while skiing off-piste in the French resort of Meribel, his manager confirmed yesterday.

After his sedative intake was gradually reduced, Schumacher blinked during the first stage of brain tests, according to sources at CHU hospital in Grenoble cited by the French sports newspaper L'Equipe.

Its deputy editor, Jeremie Arbona, said he was "100 per cent sure" its story was correct.


The paper reported: "After gradually reducing the sedation of the patient, the team of Professor Emmanuel Gay (who is overseeing Schumacher's treatment) has been doing neurological tests since Monday. During this first stage, the patient blinked."

On Thursday, Jean-Luc Truelle, a former head of the neurology department at Foch hospital in Suresnes, said once a patient in Schumacher's position opened his eyes there would be a "re-establishment of some kind of communication, which we verify through simple commands" such as "open your eyes, shut your eyes, squeeze your hand".

"Schumacher appears to show this type of reawakening," L'Equipe reported. The details confirmed Schumacher was "responding positively to these different tests and is gradually pursuing his awakening phase", it added.

Sky News also quoted sources saying Schumacher was "responding to instructions".

The reports came hours after Sabine Kehm, Schumacher's manager, confirmed French reports that the 45-year-old was being woken from his induced coma.