The Moss Rehabilitation Research Institute, one of the world’s largest and most prestigious of its kind, announced that it has begun a 3-year-long extensive study on the effects and the potential of the common sleep drug zolpidem (formerly marketed as Ambien) in restoring vegetative patients back to consciousness.
An initial pilot study of 15 patients produced inspiring results in 1 of the 15 vegetative patients. One of the men in the study received a single dose of zolpidem, which allowed him to respond to commands to move his body, follow movement with his eyes, and even to wave goodbye. He did not respond to a placebo. The other 14 patients showed no reaction to either zolpidem or the placebo.
The new study will explore those early promising results, which reveal that, at least sometimes, zolpidem has the power to restore consciousness in brain injury patients who have lived in a vegetative state for many years. Most patients who live in a vegetative state lost their consciousness seemingly permanently due to traumatic brain injuries. No proven treatment has yet been discovered for returning patients from a vegetative to a conscious and aware state.
Moss Rehabilitation Research Institute’s newest study is federally funded and will span 3 years and involve around 100 traumatic brain injury patients from all over the United States whose brain injuries left them in vegetative states. The study is set to explore the specific ways the brain interacts with zolpidem, as well as figuring out why it works with some patients and not with others. The researchers have speculated that zolpidem may turn off brain cells that interfere with the proper functioning of certain parts of the brain.
The zolpidem study is the largest and most rigorously designed study of its kind.
Researchers are excited to explore the brain to discover whether or not it retains an innate ability to come out of a vegetative state back to full consciousness. The study holds amazing promise for caregivers and family members of unconscious patients. Until this study, it has been widely assumed that vegetative are trapped in unconsciousness indefinitely.
The Moss Rehabilitation Research Institute is still seeking study participants. To receive further information or to submit a patient into the study, contact Moss Rehabilitation at: 215-663-6872.
(pic from flickr.com/photos/gettysgirl)