TUCSON (Reuters) - Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, gravely injured in a shooting rampage, is "making more spontaneous movements" and is able to feel her bullet wounds with her hands, a doctor treating her said on Wednesday.
Giffords was shot through the head by a gunman who raked a meeting with semi-automatic pistol fire in Tucson on Saturday, killing six people including a federal judge, a 9 year-old girl and one of Giffords' aides.
"She is making more and more spontaneous movements ... she is getting better every day," trauma surgeon Dr Peter Rhee told reporters at the University Medical Center in Tucson.
"She was able to actually feel her wounds herself ... we are very happy" with her progress, he said.
Giffords was shot once through the back of the head at a meeting with constituents outside a Tucson Safeway store on Saturday.
Jared Lee Loughner, a 22-year-old college dropout made his first court appearance on Monday on five federal charges, including the attempted assassination of Giffords.
Rhee said the congresswoman remained in critical condition, although she was at "the edge of the woods."
"Every day from now and until the weekend is the time that if something was going to go bad, it would happen around this time period. Nothing has happened," he said.
Among the 13 survivors hit by gunfire was Giffords' aide Ron Barber.
"He was able to see his four grandchildren on Monday, which gave him great pleasure," Barber's daughter, Jenny Douglas, told reporters on Wednesday.
Barber was retired when he began volunteering for Giffords' campaign in 2006, and he became a district director for her when she was elected.
"My dad wants to see her," Douglas said. "He's just asking about her every day."
Giffords would sustain some permanent brain damage from her bullet injury, Rhee said, although he remained hopeful she would recover to a "functional, viable, normal" state.
"I think ... without doubt. .. there's going to be some permanent damage that's going to occur from the bullet .... but will she be functional, viable, normal? I can't say for sure, but I'm very hopeful that she will be," he said.
Rhee said six patients remained hospitalized from the shooting. Aside from Giffords, who is in critical condition, two are in serious condition and three are in fair condition.
Random gun violence is commonplace in the United States but political assassinations are not. The attempted assassination has sparked a fierce debate about the sharply partisan and aggressive tone of U.S. political debate, although at this point the alleged shooter's motivations are unclear.
(Additional reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Jerry Norton)