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.
Epilepsy 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.