Brain Health,

#205: Ambien Off-Label

November 04, 2017

Dr. Nick Bomalaski’s Ambien stories won’t make you sleepy.

So you think Ambien is a snore?

You probably wouldn’t say that if you were the family member of a car accident victim in a multi-year coma who was brought back to wakefulness by this…sleep aid.  (?!?)

It’s counterintuitive, but there are a number of oddball case reports where Zolpidem (better known by its Ambien trademark) has seemingly produced unexpected and beneficial effects from people dealing with neurological disorders ranging from Parkinson’s Disease to long-term vegetative states.

When Dr. Nick Bomalaski, a Brain Injury Fellow at the University of Washington, heard enough of these one-off incidents, he took it upon himself to conduct a review of the Zolpidem literature on neurological, arousal and motor functions.

In Episode #205, he tells us what he’s found.

For Dr. Bomalaski’s full research paper “Zolpidem for the Treatment of Neurologic Disorders: A Systematic Review”, see the June 2017 edition of the journal JAMA Neurology.
Show Notes
  • 00:00:23

    Episode introduction: Ambien Off-Label.

  • 00:01:20

    This Week In Neuroscience: Detecting sarcasm and dementia.

  • 00:04:32

    5-Star review shoutouts.

  • 00:05:10

    SDS news and updates.

  • 00:06:39

    Guest introduction: Dr. Nick Bomalaski.

  • 00:07:49

    Interview begins.

  • 00:10:45

    Theories about possible mechanisms of action.

  • 00:14:08


  • 00:15:30

    A lot of low-level evidence and the need for randomized control trials.

  • 00:17:00

    Individuals who are more likely to be responders to Ambien for off-label uses.

  • 00:17:55

    Barriers to conducting randomized control trials.

  • 00:20:45

    Off-label uses for Ambien.

  • 00:22:30

    Increasing awareness about the potential benefits.

  • 00:23:10

    What future study designs would be ideal?

  • 00:24:00

    Effects of off-label uses vary depending on the disorder.

  • 00:25:20

    Interview wrap-up.

  • 00:25:53

    Ruthless Listener Retention Gimmick: Dorsal raphe nucleus neurons.

  • 00:29:23

    Episode wrap-up.

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