Doctors say Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords is responding well after being shot in the head by a gunman who killed six others in Tucson.
She was able to make a hand gesture when prompted, although there is uncertainty about the extent of potential brain damage.
Giffords has been put into an artificial coma but is being woken regularly.
“Congresswoman Giffords is able to communicate with us this morning through following simple commands, and we are very encouraged by that,” said Dr Michael Lemole, Chief of Neurosurgery at Tucson’s University Medical Centre. “We are still … in a critical condition. Brain swelling at any time can take a turn for the worse, but I am cautiously optimistic.”
Reports say the suspect, Jared Lee Loughner, who is in custody, has been charged with five criminal counts including attempted assassination.
Investigators are said to have claimed they found a document at the 22-year old’s home that discussed plans to kill Giffords.
A federal judge and a nine-year-old girl were among those killed; another 14 were wounded.
The rampage has sparked debate over extreme political rhetoric following an acrimonious campaign for November’s midterm elections.
Police have released a photo of a second man being sought, who was seen close to where the attack took place.