(1990) Movie starring Robert De Niro, Robin Williams, and Julie Kavner. Based on a true story by Oliver Sacks, Awakenings is about a Dr. Sayer (Williams), who tries a new chemical treatment on a comatose encephalitis victim. When the treatment works, Sayer is suddenly faced with a teenager in a grown man's body, as his candidate (De Niro) was in his teens when he was afflicted. Pleased with the success, Sayer tries it on the other patients, and is amazed by the results.
The movie is beautifully done, treating the story with the right blend of humour and sensitivity. It has some funny parts, but it also has it's sad moments, too, so don't expect to get away dry-eyed. Williams puts in a masterful performance, and DeNiro is simply wonderful as the sometimes child-like Leonard. A must-see for anyone.
Awakenings is the title of a 1973 book by the British neurologist dr. Oliver Sacks about his experiments in 1969 with L-dopa.

This drug, which gets converted in the brain to the neurotransmitter dopamine, was applied to a collection of patients who had been asleep since the early 1920s as the result of an epidemic of sleeping disease. It magically woke them up, allowing them to pick up their lives, brought to a halt 40 years before. However, the dosage proved hard to control, and the effects did not last indefinitely.

The book is very readable, and focuses on the personal aspects of these events, with the medical side staying in the background; perfect as a layman's introduction to the more spectacular sides of neurological reality. It sold very well.

The same title was also used for a 1974 BBC TV documentary about the subject, and a 1990 Hollywood movie, starring Robin Williams in the role of the neurologist, and Robert de Niro as one of the patients described in the book. The book's 1990 edition has additional sections, about the movie amongst other things.

(information partly from www.oliversacks.com)

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