Drug Restores Brain Function, Memory in Early Alzheimer's Disease

BALTIMORE, Md -- March 11, 2015 -- A novel therapeutic approach for an existing drug reverses a condition in elderly patients who are at high risk for dementia due to Alzheimer's disease, according to a study published this week in NeuroImage: Clinical.

Levetiracetam, commonly used to treat epilepsy, calms hyperactivity in the brain of patients with amnestic mild cognitive impairment (aMCI).

Hippocampal over-activity is well-documented in patients with aMCI and its occurrence predicts further cognitive decline and progression to Alzheimer's dementia.

“What we've shown is that very low doses of the atypical antiepileptic levetiracetam reduces this over-activity,” said Michela Gallagher, MD, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland. “At the same time, it improves memory performance on a task that depends on the hippocampus.”

The team studied 84 subjects; 17 of them were normal healthy participants and the rest had symptoms of aMCI. Everyone was aged older than 55 years. Patients were randomised to varying doses of levetiracetam or placebo.

The researchers found that low doses of the drug improved memory performance and normalised the over-activity detected by functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) that measures brain activity during a memory task.

“What we want to discover now, is whether treatment over a longer time will prevent further cognitive decline and delay or stop progression to Alzheimer's dementia,” said Dr. Gallagher.

SOURCE: Johns Hopkins University
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