Epilepsy Drug May Help Restore Normal Brain Activity In Alzheimer's Disease Patients

Researchers of a new study has tested an epilepsy drug for its potential effect on the brain activity of patients suffering from mild Alzheimer's disease.

Epilepsy And Alzheimer's Disease

Seizure-like brain activity has been linked to some of the cognitive decline in patients with Alzheimer's disease, a neurodegenerative disorder that causes problems with thinking, memory, and behavior.

Researchers have found that patients with Alzheimer's disease have an elevated odds for epilepsy, and almost half may experience the so-called subclinical epileptic activity, which is marked by disrupted electrical activity in the brain that does not result in seizure.

Because of the link between the progressive brain disorder and epilepsy, researchers tested an anti-epileptic drug on a small group of patients with mild Alzheimer's disease to see if the treatment may have an impact on their brain activity.

Researchers said that if the abnormal electrical activity in patients leads to more damage, suppressing this activity may have the potential to slow the progression of the illness.

Alzheimer's Treatment With Epilepsy Drug Levetiracetam Shows Promise

In the study published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, the researchers injected the study participants with placebo, the anti-seizure drug levetiracetam at a lower dose, and a higher dose of the drug.

After receiving the injection, the study participants underwent EEG to measure the electrical activity in the brain and MRI, which also quantifies brain activity and shows which part of the brain this takes place. The patients also took a standardized cognitive test to allow researchers to measure the executive functioning, memory, naming. semantic function, and visuospatial ability, capabilities that are affected by Alzheimer's disease.

The researchers found that the anti-seizure drug was linked to normalized abnormalities in the patients as shown by their EEG profiles. The researchers in particular noticed of an increase in the brain wave frequencies of patients with abnormally low brain wave frequencies prior to the treatment and decrease in those whose brain wave frequencies used to be abnormally low after they were given higher dose of levetiracetam.

Epilepsy Drug Still An Experimental Treatment For Alzheimer's Disease

Families of patients with Alzheimer's disease, though, should not count on using the epilepsy drug yet. The researchers said that it is still too early for the treatment to be used widely, and they are still preparing for a larger and longer study.

"We did not demonstrate any improvement in cognitive function after a single dose of medication in this study," said study researcher Daniel Press of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

Hunt For An Alzheimer's Cure

Finding a cure for Alzheimer's disease, the most common form of dementia affecting about 5 million Americans, has been elusive, but researchers continue to hunt for better treatments.

In a 2016 study, researchers tested a 36-point therapeutic program that aims to address a patient's sleep, physical activity, diet, brain stimulation, and intake of medicines and vitamins. After the treatment, researchers found improvements in patients' memory and cognition. Some of the participants even became capable of completing tasks that have become impossible for them to do.

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