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publicado em 25/07/2011 às 10h00:00
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AED improves neurological function and helps prevent Alzheimer's

Doctors believe that levetiracetam may retard abnormal and progressive loss of brain function in elderly patients

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Foto: Reprodução/Johns Hopkins University
Michela Gallagher, líder da pesquisa
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Michela Gallagher, líder da pesquisa

Researchers found that an AED can improve memory and brain function in adults with cognitive impairment that can lead to Alzheimer's disease. The findings raise the possibility that one day doctors will be able to use the levetiracetam, approved for use in patients with epilepsy, to slow the abnormal loss of brain function in some elderly patients before their disease becomes Alzheimer's. The researchers emphasize, however, that further studies are needed before any recommendation can be made of such doctors and patients.

Neuroscientist Michela Gallagher said: "For effects seen in the study, the drug slows the progression of the disease that was headed for Alzheimer's, but we need more clinical studies with a longer exposure to the drug, first of all make sure, with a rigorous evaluation of the drug is effective in the long term and that it does not hurt. "

The study also shows that excessive brain activity in patients with a disease known as amnestic mild cognitive impairment, or AMCI, contributes to brain dysfunction underlying the memory loss. Formerly it was thought that this hyperactivity of the brain was trying to "compensate" the weakness of their ability to form new memories.

The trial tested 34 elderly, some of them were healthy and had other AMCI, which means that they had difficulty with memory larger than would be expected for their age. Each person participated in a sequence of two phases of treatment that lasted two weeks each. Patients received a low dose of levetiracetam during one phase and a placebo for the other.

After each treatment phase, researchers evaluated the memory of individuals and conducted a functional magnetic resonance imaging of their brains. These tests were used to map brain activity while performing a memory task, allowing researchers to compare the status of each individual with and without the drug. Compared with normal participants, individuals with AMCI who took the placebo had excessive activity in the hippocampus, a part of the brain that is essential for memory. But when they were taking levetiracetam for two weeks, this activity was reduced to the same level as the control group and memory performance on the task performed also reached the level of controls.

The findings have implications for the possible progression to Alzheimer's disease. Studies show that excessive activity in the hippocampus in patients with AMCI found that, if followed for several years, those with more excess activation of the biggest falls have additional memory and are more likely to receive a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease within 4 to 6 years.

"As some of the physiology that creates the brain in Alzheimer's disease is driven by greater brain activity, this activity can be too much like having your foot on the accelerator if you're on the road to disease. So, the next step in this line research will test this idea to see if reducing the excessive activity may actually slow the progression to Alzheimer's in patients with AMCI, "said Gallagher.

Between 8% and 15% of patients with AMCI progress to a diagnosis of Alzheimer's each year, making that a transitional stage between normal aging and neurodegenerative diseases. Currently there is no effective treatment to modify this progression before irreversible damage has occurred in the brain. This would be a significant step forward in slowing the progression of Alzheimer's disease, a disease that is estimated it will

affect up to 16 million Americans by 2050.

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levetiracetam    Alzheimer's disease    amnestic mild cognitive impairment    AMCI    hippocampus    excessive activity in the hippocampus    memory    elderly    epilepsy   
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