Sleeping Pill Awakens Man with Rare Neurological Conditionadmin
Eight years ago, a 29-year-old man suffered from severe oxygen deprivation after choking on a piece of meat. This led to him eventually losing the ability to talk, eat independently, or move spontaneously, developing a fairly rare condition called akinetic mutism. That is, until researchers at Radboud University Medical Center (UMC) and Amsterdam UMC gave him a dose of Zolpidem, also known as Ambien, IFLScience.com reports.
According to the case study recently published in Cortex, within 20 minutes of receiving the drug the patient began talking spontaneously. He even managed to walk a short distance and phone his father. These improvements lasted for approximately 30 minutes before returning to his regular state. He was given a dose of the drug on multiple occasions and reacted similarly each time, with periods of activity lasting up to 2 hours. Eventually, however, the team noticed “a severe reduction in effectiveness” after he had received the drug for several consecutive days.
To further investigate this phenomenon the researchers scanned the patient’s brain before and after he received the drug.The scans showed overactivity in certain parts of the brain, which the sleeping was able to suppress, creating space for speech and movement.
“If you could compare the function of the brain, as it were, to a large string orchestra. In our patient, the first violins play so loud that they drown out the other members of the string orchestra and people can no longer hear each other. Zolpidem ensures that these first violins play more ‘pianissimo,’ so that everyone plays back within time,” Dr. Hisse Arnts, lead study author and neurosurgical resident at Amsterdam UMC told IFLScience.com.
While other cases have shown Zolpidem has been used to treat a number of conditions of consciousness, more research is needed, but, as this study demonstrates, this drug holds the potential to treat a variety of neurological disorders.