A Dutch man who has been unable to move and speak for eight years due to brain damage, can temporarily do so after taking the sleeping drug Zolpidem. Brain scans show that the sleeping pill removes an obstacle to these actions, scientists from Radboudumc and Amsterdam UMC report Thursday.
In men, the brain activity for moving and talking is drowned out by the brain activity for the transfer of information.
“You could compare the brain, as it were, to a large string orchestra”, explains fellow researcher Hisse Arnts. “With Richard (the man, ed.) 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 back within time. “
The fact that the man does not go to sleep because of Zolpidem is probably due to the way his brain has become confused, Arnts thinks. The problem, however, is that the man gets used to the sleeping aid, so that the effect becomes shorter and shorter. Yet he still receives it regularly and the discovery is a promising starting point for further research.
The man is not the first to return to a normal situation briefly with such a means; there are similar reports from Italy and South Africa. But how that is possible has now been determined for the first time on the basis of scans, according to the medical centers.
The man, in his late twenties at the time, suffered a severe lack of oxygen eight years ago due to choking. He ended up in a nursing home with the very rare diagnosis of akinetic mutism. Because Richard’s situation seemed hopeless, it was decided to give him the remedy.