Atlanta researchers use new tools to target drowsy driving

Neurotrials Research is using driving simulators to test new medications designed to work without sleepy side effects.
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Over the course of three weeks, April Deans spent hours in a driving simulator as part of a clinical trial to test a new medication.

"We took a muscle relaxer, so it was actually focusing on how well we could drive and what the effects of the muscle relaxer were on us," Deans told 11Alive's Jennifer Leslie. "We slept in these little rooms, and our bedtime was 10 p.m."

Deans stayed on a strict routine in the sleep lab at NeuroTrials Research in Atlanta so that doctors could rule out other factors and focus on the effects of the drug.

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"We can't just say we think it's not going to make people drowsy. We need the data to provide to the FDA," said clinical psychologist and board certified sleep specialist Dr. Russell Rosenberg.

The driving simulators are new here and open up more possibilities for research.

"We're testing experimental medications that are used for a variety of problems - muscle relaxants, antidepressants, sleep medications and others that could cause sleepiness," added Dr. Rosenberg.

Dr. Rosenberg can't reveal the name of the medicine that April and other tested.

He said it's a muscle relaxer that's designed to work without sleepy side effects.

Future studies will focus on sleep disorders, shift work and jet lag. 

Study volunteers are compensated for their time and travel.