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Discovery of brain activity in severely brain injured patients who 'wake up' w/ sleep drug
Date:11/20/2013

NEW YORK (November 19, 2013) -- George Melendez has been called a medical miracle. After a near drowning deprived his brain of oxygen, Melendez remained in a fitful, minimally conscious state until his mother, in 2002, decided to give him the sleep aid drug Ambien to quiet his moaning and writhing. The next thing she knew, her son was quietly looking at her and trying to talk. He has been using the drug ever since to maintain awareness, but no one could understand why Ambien led to such an awakening.

Now, a team of scientists led by Weill Cornell Medical College has discovered a signature of brain activity in Melendez and two other similarly "awakened" patients they say explain why he and others regain some consciousness after using Ambien or other drugs or treatments. The pattern of activity, reported Nov. 19 in the journal eLife, was identified by analyzing the common electroencephalography (EEG) test, which tracks brain waves.

"We found a surprisingly consistent picture of electrical activity in all three patients before they receive the drug. Most interesting is that their specific pattern of activity suggests a particular process occurring in the brain cells of the cerebral cortex and also supports the role of a crucial brain circuit," says the study's senior investigator, Dr. Nicholas Schiff, the Jerold B. Katz Professor of Neurology and Neuroscience and professor of public health at Weill Cornell. "These findings may help predict other patients who might similarly harbor reserve capacity, whether they are able to respond to Ambien or other approaches." Dr. Schiff is also on the faculty of the Feil Family Brain and Mind Research Institute at Weill Cornell and is a neurologist at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center.

"We are focused on finding ways to identify patients who have a functional reserve of cognitive capacities that can be rescued and how to achieve this result," Dr. Schiff adds. "These f
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Contact: Jennifer Gundersen
jeg2034@med.cornell.edu
646-317-7402
Weill Cornell Medical College
Source:Eurekalert

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