Dr. Oliver Sacks and His Awakening Experiment Dr. Oliver Sacks is a neurologist who took it upon himself to study disorders of the brain that are not quite easily explained. Disorders such as Parkinson’s disease (PD), schizophrenia, Tourette’s, Alzheimer’s, and facial blindness have no known causes and the number of patients diagnosed with these illnesses is steadily increasing. Currently, Dr. Sacks is residing in New York where he is a professor of clinical neurology and psychiatry at Columbia University. Dr.

Sacks has accomplished milestones in the field of medicine and is best known for his case studies of neurological disorders, in which he has written several books educating the world on the topic (Why the Brain Loves Music? , 2007). During the late 1960s, Dr. Sacks began his work as a consulting neurologist at the Beth Abraham Hospital in Bronx, NY. This hospital served as a chronic care facility and housed the very same patients Dr. Sacks would try an experimental drug on (Why the Brain Loves Music? 2007). These catatonic patients were in a coma-like state and could not move nor had any responses for decades.

They were survivors of the world-wide illness encephalitis lethargica, otherwise known as the sleepy sickness. This illness was prevalent during 1916-1927 and was first recognized by Constantin von Economo (National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, 2007). This illness attacks the brain and causes high fever, sore throat, headaches, double vision, delayed responses and movement, sleepiness, abnormal eye movement and other such symptoms that coincided with Parkinson’s disease (National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, 2007).

The cause for this illness was not known and recent research has suggested that this disease is a result of a negative immune reaction. There was not a consistent form of treatment for this. Some patients were given steroids and were able to see some type of improvement (National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, 2007); however, Dr. Sacks was able to use medication used to treat Parkinson’s disease called L-Dopa. When this drug was given to the patients, they were revived from their comatose states and were able to live normal or somewhat normal lives.

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The negative side of this medication, although it cured them of their catatonia, was that it did not last and their cured states were short-lived. In 1990, the film Awakening, portrayed the findings and the studies that Dr. Sacks produced to these patients. It brought on the question, what would you do if you were asleep for 30 years only to go back to sleep forever (The Moral Times)? As the effects of the medication wore off, the patients reverted back to their same symptoms that caused them to be statuesque (Fatimathas, Lux, 2010).

This drug was perfect to use because just as how Parkinson’s affect the brain by turning off neurons used to communicate with other neurons for normal brain and body function, encephalitis lethargic produced the same symptoms and brain diagnosis. L-Dopa turned on the defective neurons allowing the normal flow of functioning. Although the drug did not have lasting effects, it had positive reactions for victims of Parkinson’s disease (Fatimathas, Lux, 2010). Dr. Sacks brought innovation to the world of neurological disorders.

Never before have these kind of disorders been taken seriously nor have physicians had the patience to find a cure or at least discover the causes and risks. His study proved that there is a cure for the unknown and he has continued his research in finding a cure. References 1. Fatimathas, Lux (2010). When L-dopa made it big in Hollywood…Progress in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease. June 11, 2011. Retrieved from http://www. newsciencejournalism. net/ 2. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (2007).

NINDS Encephalitis Lethargica Information Page. June 11, 2011. Retrieved from http://www. ninds. nih. gov/disorders/encephalitis_lethargica/encephalitis_lethargica. html. 3. The Moral Times. Awakening from Encephalitis lethargic – Would you want to know if you had lost 30 years of your life? June 11, 2011. Retrieved from http://themoraltimes. com/? =3212. 4. Why the Brain Loves Music? (2007). June 11, 2011. Retrieved from http://www. isepp. org/Pages/07-08%20Pages/Sacks07. html.


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