Harnessing the "Alcohol Effect" for Spasmodic Dysphonia

November 5, 2018

Diagram of the brain

New research findings from a study led by Kristina Simonyan, MD, PhD, Dr med, show the potential of a new oral drug for spasmodic dysphonia, a neurological disorder affecting the muscles of the larynx or voice box. The work was published last week in Scientific Reports.

The study shows that sodium oxybate (Xyrem®) has therapeutic effects in patients with spasmodic dysphonia similar to that of alcohol. Previous research from the Dystonia and Speech Motor Control Laboratory, which Dr. Simonyan directs, showed that symptoms of spasmodic dysphonia in some patients improve with ingestion of alcohol. Sodium oxybate harnesses the therapeutic potential of the “alcohol effect” in these patients, without the risk of abuse and misuse, and by modulating abnormal activity in the brain, alleviates symptoms of spasmodic dysphonia.

“In developing new treatment options for spasmodic dysphonia, it is very important to target the pathophysiological traits in this disorder,” Dr. Simonyan explained. “Sodium oxybate shows this potential, and we hope that understanding of its efficacy and mechanisms of action will lead to wider use of this new drug in alcohol-responsive patients.”