What is Locked-In Syndrome?
Locked-in syndrome is a rare neurological disorder characterized by complete paralysis of voluntary muscles in all parts of the body except for those that control eye movement. It may result from traumatic brain injury, diseases of the circulatory system, diseases that destroy the myelin sheath surrounding nerve cells, or medication overdose. Individuals with locked-in syndrome are conscious and can think and reason, but are unable to speak or move. The disorder leaves individuals completely mute and paralyzed. Communication may be possible with blinking eye movements
Unlike persistent vegetative state, in which the upper portions of the brain are damaged and the lower portions are spared, locked-in syndrome is caused by damage to specific portions of the lower brain and brainstem with no damage to the upper brain.
Possible causes of locked-in syndrome include:
Treatment of locked-in syndrome
There is no cure for locked-in syndrome, nor is there a standard course of
treatment. A therapy called functional neuromuscular stimulation, which uses
electrodes to stimulate muscle reflexes, may help activate some paralyzed
muscles. Several devices to help communication are available. Other courses of
treatment are often symptomatic. Assistive computer interface technologies,
such as Dasher in combination with eye tracking may be used to help patients
communicate. New direct brain interface mechanisms may provide future
remedies. Israeli scientists have reported that they have developed a
technique that allows locked-in patients to communicate via sniffin
What is the prognosis of Locked-In Syndrome?
The prognosis for those with locked-in syndrome is poor. The majority of individuals do
not regain function.
The NINDS supports research on neurological disorders that can cause locked-in
syndrome. The goals of this research are to find ways to prevent, treat, and cure these
this link to view a list of studies currently seeking patients.