Awakenings (Guide for Movie Response Paper)

1. Describe the symptoms of the character “Lenny” in childhood as well as adulthood.

2. Describe Lucy’s symptoms.

3. In Lenny’s, Lucy’s and the other similar cases, how do their symptoms compare with those of people with schizophrenia?

4. Describe Dr. Sayer’s “will” theory in regard to his patients’ reactions to the ball. Relate this to the “will” of some people with schizophrenia.

5. What various stimuli make these patients react? (i.e., what reaches them?)

6. Why might these patients have been diagnosed as suffering from “atypical schizophrenia”?

7. Unlike the case of schizophrenia, we know what caused these patients’ disorder. What was it?

8. The older doctor says these patients aren’t thinking, “the virus didn’t spare their higher faculties.” Dr. Sayer asks how he knows that. The older doctor replies, “Because the alternative is unthinkable.” What does he mean by that? What effect did this point of view have on these patients’ diagnosis and treatment? Can you relate this to schizophrenia or mental illness in general?

9. Why does it bother Dr. Sayer that Lucy was drawn to the window rather than to the drinking fountain? Can you relate this to Maslow?

10. The EEG indicates what about Lenny?

11. Dr. Sayer uses an unusual technique to assess his patients. What is it?

12. What finally moves Burt?

13. Why does the poem, “The Panther,” have special significance for Lenny?

14. What is L-Dopa? It is used in the treatment of what disorder?

15. Dr. Sayer parallels Parkinson’s and his patients’ disorder. Describe this.

16. The dopamine circuit is affected in opposite ways in Parkinson’s and schizophrenia. Phenothiazines taken for a long period produce Parkinson-like symptoms in the person with schizophrenia. Knowing this and knowing the effect on phenothiazine on the dompamine circuit, explain why you think L-Dopa “awakes” Dr. Sayer’s patients.

17. What are the various psychological reactions the patients have to their “awakenings”?

18. What Parkinson-like symptoms does Lenny exhibit when he develops tolerance to LDopa?

19. One doctor describes Lenny as being paranoid. How does Dr. Sayer explain this? Describe this in terms of labeling theory.

20. What ethical questions are raised in this movie regarding treatment? What is your opinion?

21. What is the second “awakening” Dr. Sayer refers to at the end of the movie? What does this suggest about the treatment of mental patients?