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Reducing Brain Activity Improves Memory after Cognitive Decline
Posted: Friday, May 11, 2012 1:58 PM
Joined: 12/6/2011
Posts: 3326

From Alzheimer's Daily News:

(Source: AAAS) - A study led by Johns Hopkins neuroscientist Michela Gallagher suggests a potential new therapeutic approach for improving memory and interrupting disease progression in patients with a form of cognitive impairment that often leads to full-blown Alzheimer's disease.

The team found that this excess neural hyperactivity in the hippocampus contributes to conditions such as amnestic mild cognitive impairment (aMCI), in which patients' memories are worse than would be expected in healthy people the same age.

"In the case of aMCI, it has been suggested that the increased hippocampal activation may serve a beneficial function by recruiting additional neural 'resources' to compensate for those that are lost," explained Gallagher. "However, animal studies have raised the alternative view that this excess activation may be contributing to memory impairment."


Gallagher's team administered a low dose of a drug clinically used to treat epilepsy. They found that subjects who had been treated with an effective dose of the drug did better on a memory task, pointing to the therapeutic potential of reducing this excess activation of the hippocampus in patients with aMCI.


According to Gallagher, the elevated hippocampal activity observed in conditions that precede AD may be one of the underlying mechanisms contributing to neurodegeneration and memory loss.


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Posted: Friday, May 11, 2012 6:34 PM
Joined: 12/20/2011
Posts: 217




Myriam, thanks for posting about this very interesting study. 


I looked at some other sources and found more info. 


The drug that improved memory is low-dose Levetiracetam, which is FDA-approved for epilepsy. 


It works fast too.  If I understand correctly, it only took 2 weeks for some aspects of memory to return to normal. 


"But when they had been taking levetiracetam for two weeks, the excess activity [of the hippocampus] 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’."  


These participants, of course, didn't have full-blown AD quite yet. But still it sounds very encouraging. 


Here's the study:

Reduction of Hippocampal Hyperactivity Improves Cognition in Amnestic Mild Cognitive Impairment  


One commentator writes:
"This is a quite remarkable and important finding that may lead to novel therapies in a short period of time."  


I wonder if any OTC alternatives might exist. I wonder if there may be nutritional options to consider.



Lane Simonian
Posted: Saturday, May 12, 2012 12:34 PM
Joined: 12/12/2011
Posts: 5129

The increase in brain activity during Mild Cognitive Impairment in likely due to higher levels of acetylcholine.  This seems ironic as Alzheimer's disease results in low levels of acetylcholine.  Some researchers think the high levels of acetylcholine are a compensatory mechanism but it is likely a result of the pathways that lead to Alzheimer's disease.  The increase in acetylcholine is likely due to Protein Kinase C activation by phospholipase C gamma and beta.  These enzymes increase acetylcholinesterase activity early in Alzheimer's disease and lead to the formation of peroxynitrites which oxidize choline transport systems, the enzyme choline acetyltransferase, and muscarinic acetylcholine receptors leading to a sharp decline in acetylcholine as the disease progresses (acetylcholine is an enzyme critical for short-term memory).  Phenolic compounds in various spices, essential oils, fruit, and vegetables inhibit the activation of phospholipase C gamma, protein kinase C, acetylcholine release (and brain excitability) early on, inhibit the activation of choline acetylcholinesterase, inhibit the formation of amyloid plaques, inhibit the formation of peroxynitrites, scavenge peroxynitrites, and reverse part of their damage in terms of oxidation and nitration  Thus, the potential role of the Mediterranean diet (high in polyphenols in the prevention and possible treatment of Alzheimer's disease).  The only drawback is that at very high levels of phenolic compounds can over activate muscarinic receptors leading to all the problems listed above.  However, I think you would have to consume, drink, or inhale very high levels of phenols before they became prooxidants rather than antioxidants. 
Lane Simonian
Posted: Saturday, May 12, 2012 12:51 PM
Joined: 12/12/2011
Posts: 5129

Here's a likely explanation for why Levetiracetam may be effective in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease. 


Glutamate release appears to contribute to epilepsy and is a problem in Alzheimer's disease and Levetiracetam helps to inhibit glutamate release. 

Posted: Saturday, May 12, 2012 2:15 PM
Joined: 12/20/2011
Posts: 217

 Lane, thanks for your comments.

If you or anyone else here can think of other "natural" treatment possibilities (in addition to those already mentioned like essential oils) that this new research may suggest, please post. 


I know it's just a small study but it was on humans and it did show restoration of memory (or at least certain key aspects of memory) in a short period of time.

Maybe some of you here can come up with more OTC possibilities.  Thanks.