- Akinetic mutism
- A state in which a person is unspeaking (mute) and unmoving (akinetic). A textbook on clinical neurology observes that a person with akinetic mutism has "sleep-waking cycles but, when apparently awake, with eyes open, lies mute. immobile and unresponsive." Akinetic mutism is often due to damage to the frontal lobes of the brain. The disorder was the subject of a front-page story in The New York Times on Aug. 30, 1998. The story concerned a 14-year-old girl in Worcester, Mass. named Audrey Santo, bedridden for 11 years, "inert and unspeaking, the legacy of an accidental fall into a backyard swimming pool" in 1987. "She has had a steady stream of visitors to her home," according to the Times, "including priests and some people who claim that they were miraculously healed by her." According to Audrey's pediatrician, Dr. John W. Harding, "She kind of gives you the impression at various times that she sees, hears, and knows who you are."
* * *a state in which the individual appears to be alert but can make no spontaneous movement or sound, although in some cases a powerful stimulus may evoke a very limited response; it can result from a variety of cerebral lesions. Cf. locked-in syndrome.
Medical dictionary. 2011.