Views & Reviews Medical classic

Awakenings

BMJ 2007; 334 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.39227.715370.59 (Published 31 May 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;334:1169
  1. Charlotte Allan, foundation year 1 doctor, Leeds General Infirmary
  1. charlotteallan{at}nhs.net

    In 1969 levodopa (L-dopa) was hailed as a miracle drug that would cure parkinsonism. Sacks's book Awakenings is a series of extraordinary case reports describing how patients trapped by parkinsonism were re-awakened by levodopa after decades of stupor and inertia.

    After the first world war, an epidemic of encephalitis lethargica started in Vienna and spread across the world. Many of those who survived developed a range of postencephalitic syndromes. Oliver Sacks worked at Mount Carmel, an institution outside New York, which had 80 patients with intractable, post-encephalitic parkinsonian syndrome. It affected all aspects of behaviour and trapped patients within themselves, often …

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