Man who couldn’t talk and move for 8 years ‘wakes up’ 20 minutes after docs gave him sleeping drug

After suffering from brain damage and akinetic mutism for eight years, this man regained consciousness when he was given a sleeping drug.

  • Eight years ago, Richard was hospitalized after choking on a piece of meat.
  • The incident left him with severe brain damage and akinetic mutism.
  • After taking a sleeping pill, Richard temporarily recovered as he regained his ability to talk and move.
The Sun

A 37-year-old man has regained his consciousness after taking a sleeping drug. 

After choking on a piece of meat, Richard suffered from a lack of oxygen which resulted in severe brain damage and akinetic mutism. This means that the man was left paralyzed and unable to speak. According to The Sun, Richard’s family “had agreed that doctors could administer the medication as they had previously said there was little that could be done for his condition.” Surprisingly, Richard’s condition improved 20 minutes after the doctors gave him 10mg of Zolpidem, a sleeping pill.

Doctoral student Willemijn van Erp at Radboud University commented on the results. 

Because Richard’s situation seemed hopeless, the family and I decided to administer this medication to Richard. […] Against all expectations, Zolpidem had remarkable effects. […] After taking the sleep pill, Richard started talking, wanted to call his father, and started recognising his brothers again. […] With some help, he could even get up from his wheelchair and walk short distances.

The Sun

Unfortunately, the sleeping pill’s effects were only temporary.

The Sun reported that after the incident, Richard’s brain had shut down to sensory overload. It was found that the sleeping pill had allowed him to regain his speech and movement because it muted unwanted brain activity. However, the effects of the drug were only temporary as they lasted two hours. Dr. Hisse Arnts at Amsterdam UMC further explained:

 Richard’s brain scans show overactivity in certain parts of the brain. This overactivity causes noise and somehow shuts down the ‘good’ brain activity. We have discovered that administering this sleeping medication can suppress this unwanted brain overactivity, creating space for speech and movement.

Source: Daily Mail

Moreover, Dr. Arnts reportedly stated that the pill became less effective with time and that Richard’s ability to speak decreased each time he took it. Researchers are now hoping to find a long-lasting solution which will allow Richard – and others with his condition – to recover fully.

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