MadSci Network: Medicine

Re: What is the specific RXN in the body when sodium amytal is introduced?

Date: Wed Apr 28 14:13:50 1999
Posted By: Jeffrey Utz, M.D., Neuroscience, pediatrics, Allegheny University
Area of science: Medicine
ID: 924105257.Me

Sodium Amytal (sodium amobarbital) is a fast-acting barbituate anesthetic. 
Like all barbituates, its main way of acting in the brain is to increase 
the inhibition in the brain by increasing GABAergic inhibition. GABA 
(gamma-aminobuteric acid) is the main inhibitory neurotransmitter used by 
the brain. Inhibition turns off neurons (brain cells). If you turn off too 
many neurons, you lose consciousness.

In addition, when one has been exposed to sodium Amytal (but less than 
what causes one to lose consciousness), alcohol and some other drugs, one 
loses inhibition. This means one would do things that one would not 
normally do.

My favorite use of sodium Amytal is in what is called the sodium Amytal 
test or Wadda test. (Actually, I have never seen this test in person. But 
I like the theory.) In this test, an IV is started in the carotid artery 
(Warning: Any manipulation of the carotid artery is very dangerous; Do NOT 
do this at home or school). The left and right carotid arteries are the 
main arterie that supply the brain with blood. Sodium Amytal is injected 
into the artery, and whichever side of the brain is controled by that 
artery falls asleep. If the person's lanuqage is controlled by his left 
side of his brain (most people are this way) and the sodium Amytal is 
injected into the left carotid artery, the person stops talking. If the 
Amytal is injected into the right side, he continues talking. These days, 
there are better tests for this sort of thing, like PET scans and fMRI 
scans, so it is rarely done.

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