A new experimental drug is being touted as a possible future treatment for the effects of sleep deprivation.
Researchers at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C., say an experimental drug called CX717 temporarily improved performance and reversed the effects of sleep deprivation in the brains of monkeys.
The drug works on a type of brain receptor involved in cell-to-cell communication, boosting the action of the neurotransmitter glutamate.
"In addition to improving performance under normal conditions, the drug restored performance that was impaired after sleep loss," senior researcher Samuel Deadwyler said in a prepared statement.
Um, we already have an effective treatment for the effects of sleep deprivation. It's called sleep.
A drug that could reverse the effects of sleep deprivation would be regarded by some as a breakthrough in helping health professionals, shift workers, military personnel and others required to function at top level while coping with sleep deficits, the researchers said.
I can imagine a few situations where treating sleep deprivation with a drug could be helpful. But I think it would end up being used much more to encourage/coerce people to push themselves beyond their healthy biological boundaries. Rather than work out saner schedules for doctors, nurses, and others, we would just expect them to medicate the problem away.
This is in the same vein as other rants I've made about technological advances. They have the potential to make things better, but we usually end up demanding more of ourselves because of them.
From another article:
"It's possible that ampakines could also be used to enhance other cognitive deficits, such as occur in Alzheimer's disease, after a stroke or other forms of dementia," Deadwyler said.
That would be cool. If we chose to mainly use this drug for the treatment of disease, rather than to ignore our natural biological needs, that would demonstrate a lot of wisdom on our part.