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Sleeping Pills Wake Up The Brain

A woman who had suffered hypoxia (oxygen-deprivation of the brain) during a suicide attempt by hanging was left unable to speak, eat, or move without external help. After two years of this condition, she was given sleeping tablets (zolpidem tartrate, marketed as Ambien) following an episode of insomnia, and was again able to communicate, eat and move unaided some 20 minutes after the drug hit her bloodstream. The effect was only transient and she returned to her condition some three hours later.

Being given a dosage of three pills a days, she was able to stand and walk, read and repeat words, as well as name object, although she still couldn’t talk spontaneously. A Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scan showed that the drug activated areas of her brain that had been left “silent” after her hypoxia.

Although the mechanism of action of zolpidem isn’t yet clear, this gives new hope for patients suffering of persistent brain damage. Research teams in France, the UK, and South Africa are currently performing clinical trials to study how this drug can restore cognitive functions of people who have suffered from stroke or any other debilitating brain damage.

Source: Annals Of Neurology (Abstract only)

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