An Existing Drug Reverses Dementia Symptoms


An Existing Drug reverses Dementia Symptoms

New research finds that an existing drug reverses dementia symptoms caused by amnestic mild cognitive impairment (aMCI), a condition that greatly increases the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Mild cognitive impairment is a condition affecting brain function, though not so severe it interferes with day to day activities. aMCI is a transitional stage between normal aging and dementia, some studies have calculated the rate of progression between aMCI and Alzheimer’s disease at 10-15% per year. Finding people at this transitional stage makes it possible to prevent dementia symptoms before they become to severe. New research from Johns Hopkins University finds that an existing drug reverses dementia symptoms caused by aMCI.

An Existing Drug reverses Dementia Symptoms Caused by aMCI

The findings were published in the journal Neuroimage: Clinical.

In a study published three years ago researchers found that it was possible to reduce over-activity in the brains of mice by using low doses of the anti-epileptic medicine levetiracetam. Reducing over-activity in the hippocampus was also found to improved the memory in mice.

Would people react the same way?

To test this, researchers used the same anti-epileptic drug, levetiracetam, in people suffering from aMCI. The goal was to reduce over-activity in the hippocampus of people affected by aMCI, bringing the activity down to levels seen in healthy aged matched controls. Brain activity was monitored by fMRI scans performed during memory tests.

84 subject, 17 healthy controls, with aMCI, over the age of 55 participated in the study. The participants were given varying doses of either the anti-epileptic drug or a placebo in a double blind randomized trial. All subjects in the study were given both the drug and placebo in different experiments in order to serve as their own controls.Researchers found that the drug, levetiracetam, reduced over-activity in the hippocampus and improved the memory of people suffering from aMCI.

The finding of the study was that the drug indeed could be used to reverse symptoms of aMCI which might delay or stop the development of Alzheimer’s dementia.

“Apart from a direct role in memory impairment, there is concern that elevated activity in vulnerable neural networks could be causing additional damage and possibly promoting the widespread disease-related degeneration that underlies cognitive decline and the conversion to Alzheimer’s Disease,” says lead author Michela Gallagher. “Therefore, reducing the elevated activity in the hippocampus may help to restore memory and protect the brain. It will require a carefully monitored, lengthier clinical trial to determine if that is the case.”

Image Credit: Allan Ajifo via, CC BY-2.0