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Drug improves brain function in condition that leads to Alzheimer's
Date:7/20/2011

emory and conducted functional magnetic resonance imaging of their brains. These scans were used to map brain activity during performance of a memory task, allowing the researchers to compare each individual's status both on and off the drug. Compared to the normal participants, subjects with amnestic MCI who took the placebo had excess activity in the hippocampus, a part of the brain essential for memory. But when they had been taking levetiracetam for two weeks, the excess activity was reduced to the same level as that of the control subjects; memory performance in the task they performed also was improved to the level of the controls.

The findings have possible implications for the progression to Alzheimer's disease. Studies showing excess activity in the hippocampus in patients with aMCI have found that if these patients are followed for a number of years, those with the greatest excess activation have the greatest further drop in memory and are more likely to receive a diagnosis of Alzheimer's over the next four to six years.

Other recent research provides a clue as to why this might be the case, says Gallagher, the Krieger-Eisenhower Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences in Johns Hopkins' Krieger School of Arts and Sciences.

"Because some of the physiology that creates Alzheimer's disease in the brain is driven by greater brain activity, this excess activity might be like having your foot on the accelerator if you are on the path to Alzheimer's," Gallagher said. "So the next step in this line of research will be to test that idea to see whether reducing excess activity might actually slow progression to Alzheimer's for patients with aMCI."

Between 8 and 15 percent of patients with aMCI progress to an Alzheimer's diagnosis every year, making aMCI a stage of transition between normal aging and neurodegenerative disease. At present there is no effective treatment to modify this progression before irreversible damage ha
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Contact: Lisa DeNike
Lde@jhu.edu
443-287-9960
Johns Hopkins University
Source:Eurekalert

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