Image from: Alzheimer's Association

Researchers Sanchez et al. from the Gladstone Institute, University of California San Franciso and Washington University School of Medicine discovered that an FDA-approved anti-convulsant medication used to treat epilepsy (levetiracetam) can also reverse memory loss in addition to reducing other Alzheimer’s related symptoms in a mouse model of the disease.

Alzheimer’s is currently the most common form of dementia (memory loss) representing 50-80% of cases. It is a disease that worsens over time. Although there are available medications to help slow the progression of the disease or lessen the symptoms, there is currently no cure. Presently, an estimated 5.4 million people have Alzheimer’s disease in the United States and this number is expected to rise.    

When administered to mice with Alzheimer’s, levetiracetam was found to decrease abnormal signaling in the brain by 50% in just one day. By 2 weeks, neurons within the brain exhibited signs of improved communication. Using a maze test, the researchers were able to demonstrate improved learning and memory with the anti-convulsant medication. Moreover, proteins necessary for normal brain function were restored to normal levels in the treated animals.

More research is needed however, to determine whether this new use of levetiracetam in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease is effective and safe for humans. Although a recent trial showed that it could improve memory and brain function in patients with mild cognitive impairments:

 


Sources:

Sanchez PE, Zhua L, Verreta L, Vossela KA, Orra AG, Cirritoc JR, Devidzea N, Ho K, Yua G-Q, Palopa JJ, and Mucke L. Levetiracetam suppresses neuronal network dysfunction and reverses synaptic and cognitive deficits in an Alzheimer’s disease model. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Epub ahead of print. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1121081109

Alzheimer’s Association

Comments

  1. #1 DR KAPEPELESHA
    zambia
    August 8, 2012

    do you know that you can get infected to taeniasolium engesting the intamidiat host caring the worm. and the worm can even reach the brain and distub the brains work.

  2. #2 buckthewowser
    August 8, 2012

    Well how do you extrapolate mouse memory to humans, this is creationism of a scientific kind Dr Donothing, LOL

    • #3 Dr. Dolittle
      August 10, 2012

      That is precisely where more research is needed especially since these findings were made in mouse models of Alzheimer’s disease. The way that they measure mouse memory is to determine how well a mouse remembers their way around a maze…like a recall test. It was also shown to improve levels of proteins required for normal brain function. So the big assumption would be that if the treatment improved levels of these proteins, then perhaps brain function overall is improved.

      In a more recent study at Johns Hopkins, Levetiracetam was shown to improve memory and brain function in humans with cognitive impairments that lead to Alzheimer’s. The hope is to be able to use this drug as a way to slow down the progression of the debilitating disease. A video report from this study has been added to the blog entry.

  3. #4 Joseph Bradley
    United States
    August 8, 2012

    The anti-convulsant medication reverses which symptoms of Alzheimer’s? How much memory loss is reversed and how was this studied?

    Emeryville Pharmaceuticals

  4. #5 Richard Deutsch
    UK
    August 21, 2012

    How have treatments for other diseases fared in the leap from mouse to man? What is the comparative data?Seems a bit underwhelming that I have not seen more comment on levetiracetam result in the press, given the lack of any other promising treatments and the potential disasterous scale of the issue.

  5. #6 Susan Taylor
    Longview, WA
    September 9, 2012

    Since I was injured in a major car accident in 1991, I have had memory gaps of my youth, college, classical music (3 degrees), work etc. My recent memories are easily accessible but I have difficulty recalling details prior to the accident. Could this promising epilepsy drug be effective in helping me with my brain injury? Is there a clinical trial I could join ?

    • #7 Dr. Dolittle
      September 28, 2012

      I would suggest that you discuss this with your doctor. I don’t think they have looked at whether or not it would be useful at helping to reverse memory loss resulting from a traumatic brain injury.

  6. #8 Kristine Gallagher
    United States
    September 10, 2012

    My husband has epilepsy from a brain tumor, brain infections and 4 brain surgeries AND has been on Levetiracetam / Keppra for 4 years. It really does work! He should have memory loss due to the area where the tumor damaged his brain , he still has seizures — yet his memory is strong. I am hopeful!

  7. #9 Philippe Persoons, MD
    Leuven, Belgium
    October 18, 2012

    Personally, I have some experience with the use of levetiracetam in patients with Alzheimer’s disease and epilepsy on a case level. These are of course NOT study results and are only personal impressions in patients with rather advanced forms of the disease. In my personal experience, I have never seen any beneficial effect in patients. On the contrary, patients with probable, moderate to severe Alzheimer’s disease (NOT MCI) on levetiracetam seem to display significantly more behavioral and psychiatric symptoms in dementia (BPSD) which improve after changing the treatment for epilepsy. FRIN!

  8. #10 Ferhan
    Pakistan
    March 10, 2013

    Doctor I have been experiencing temporary memory loss for about 10 to 15 seconds when I am very stressed out since the past 05 yearsI have consulted a nuber of doctors but no one has diagnosed yet. currently am using tegrol but these days am experiencing a lot of atttacks. can you please diagnose what i am suffering from and how it can be treated?

  9. #11 Maliha
    Canada
    November 12, 2014

    I find it a little confusing as to how it is possible that this medication can improve brain and memory function but at the same time cause cognitive impairment? Is that not contradictory that the meds are suppose o help the brain but the side effects are related to the brain? Did the research account the facts that humans do not share all the same proteins as mice. For example the apoE4 gene in humans is not found in mice. It is this gene that is responsible for the degeneration in Alzheimer’s patients. Was this gene taken into account when conducting the experiment?

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