Oxygen based neurotransmitters in the synapses of the brain are proposed to play an important role in the generation of consciousness. They include the amino acids glutamate and GABA which use Krebs cycle precursors for their synthesis, and the monoamines dopamine, noradrenalin, adrenalin and serotonin, which are derived from tyrosine and tryptophan.
During ischemia after an acute brain injury, a GABA surge often initiates brain suppression. It has been proposed that with chronic ischemia, a secondary, possibly epigenetic response occurs when neurotransmitters deplete, a glucose and oxygen saving mechanism termed neurodormancy that may invoke alternative long term low energy metabolic pathways in the brain, encountered in Disorders of Consciousness.
Some medications can reverse Disorders of Consciousness in some patients. Virtually all of them act on neurotransmitter systems that use oxygen as a building block or as an energy source within the brain. Pharmaceuticals that act in the oxygen based amino acid systems of the brain include the GABAergic medications zolpidem and baclofen, while those that act in the monoamine axes include the dopaminergic medications L Dopa, amantadine, bromocriptine, apomorphine and methylphenidate, and the noradrenergic and serotonergic medications desipramine, amitriptyline, protriptyline and fluoxetine. Another group are the cholinesterase inhibitors, responsible for increasing acetylcholine, which is synthesized from the Krebs cycle initiator, acetyl CoA.
It appears that pharmaceuticals that are active in the oxygen based neurotransmitter pathways of the brain are successful to arouse to consciousness patients that suffer from its disorders. Research needs to be supported as foundation to understand the biochemical mechanisms that are involved in consciousness disorders and to explore further the pharmacological treatment possibilities for these devastating neurological conditions.