Tag Archives: Epilepsy

Help for Alzheimer’s May Come from an Epilepsy Drug

John Hopkins University Researchers may have found a new drug to treat memory loss in Alzheimer’s patients. A study reported in NeuroImage:Clinical documents the potential for low doses of antiepileptic levetiracetam to halt the progression to dementia—one of the worse outcomes of Alzheimer’s disease.

Quieting the brain can improve cognitive functioning

Levetiracetam is a drug used to treat epilepsy. It works by quieting hyperactivity in the brain. Sustained hyperactivity in the brain causes the epileptic seizure. Hyperactivity in the Hippocampal area of the brain has been found to cause amnestic mild cognitive impairment (aMCI). Patients with aMCI tend to experience memory loss at a much higher level and earlier in age than would normally be the case. Further, aMCI has been proven to be a predictor of ultimate advancement to Alzheimer’s disease. Therefore, researchers wanted to discover if using an existing drug known to calm the brain in epileptics might also impact cognitive impairment.

Synapse in brain

Levetiracetam improves memory

The research study consisted of a total of 84 subjects in a double-blind random trial. Seventeen of the subjects were in the control group. The remainder were already showing symptoms of pre-dementia memory loss. Various levels of the drug were administered, as well as a placebo. Patients were asked to complete tasks while an MRI scan monitored brain activity. The results were very encouraging. The MRI scan showed that as the drug diminished hyperactivity in the hippocampus, memory improved. When given low doses of levetiracetam those cognitive tasks that rely on the hippocampus were more easily accomplished.

Promise of a brighter future

Next step for researchers us to determine if long-term use of the drug can halt further cognitive decline, and most importantly, if it will save the patient from Alzheimer’s disease. For the millions of Alzheimer’s disease sufferers, a drug that will allow them to hold on to their memories will be an incredible turning point for them and their families.


Epilepsy Drug Offers Hope for Radical Approach to Preventing Alzheimer’s Dementia

A Johns Hopkins study of eighty-four test subjects found that a drug used to treat epilepsy appears to reverse pre-dementia loss of memory. More testing is required, but if the results continue over the long term, patients experiencing Alzheimer’s dementia could have a new lease on life.
Dementia is a term used to describe mental loss to the degree that one has difficulty performing everyday activities. Amnesic mild cognitive impairment (aMCI) is a form of dementia that impacts memory function that resides in the hippocampal, making it difficult or impossible to remember recent experiences, meeting schedules or conversations. aMCI causes a higher degree of memory loss than normal, at an earlier age, and when this manifests it is a good predictor of increased risk to develop Alzheimer’s dementia.

Doctor shows the patient how to use daily dose pillsEpilepsy is a seizure disorder. Abnormal cell activity in the brain causes seizure. Cognitive impairment and epilepsy share a common characteristic: hyperactivity in the brain, known as hippocampal overactivity. Doctors have begun to treat epilepsy patients with antiepileptic levetiracetam, a new drug that has been successful in quieting brain activity and reducing seizures in epilepsy patients. Now, it appears that it can also help to prevent or reverse early stages of Alzheimer’s dementia.

The research study, led by Michela Gallagher, and published in in NeuroImage: Clinical, consisted of 17 control test subjects and 67 test subjects exhibiting symptoms of pre-dementia memory loss. Low doses of antiepileptic levetiracetam were administered, at various levels to the group, and also a placebo. Brain hyperactivity that had previously been identified by an MRI scan showed a return to normal when subjects completed routine tasks. Memory also improved, leading the research team to conclude that antiepileptic levetiracetam could be a powerful preventative drug to delay or eliminate the cognitive deterioration that leads to Alzheimer’s dementia.