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Study may shed light on drug's effects

A STUDY of mice may help explain some of the strange side effects in people taking the sleep drug Ambien, including sleep walking, midnight binges and even driving while not fully awake.

Ambien, made by Sanofi-Aventis, can shut down powerful brain circuits responsible for inhibiting brain activity under certain circumstances, leaving other brain circuits unchecked, researchers at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington said.

"You are kind of releasing the brakes," said Molly Huntsman of Georgetown, who worked on the study that appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

This may stimulate brain circuits that would normally be silenced. "In a way, Ambien is awakening other circuits because the brakes are not in place," Huntsman said.

"The thing about humans is that it doesn't happen in every case. But in a few cases, people will start to sleep walk and sleep eat and have these crazy bizarre situations," she said.


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