May 11, 2012

MCI Patients Gain New Hope for Memory Improvement

(Ivanhoe Newswire) — Contrary to previous thought, promoting excess brain activity in patients with amnestic mild cognitive impairment (aMCI) can actually hinder rather than help memory performance.

Amnestic mild cognitive impairment is a disorder associated with the onset of Alzheimer´s disease, characterized by a person´s memory being worse than expected for their age.

"In the case of early 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," Dr. Michela Gallagher, study author from Johns Hopkins University, was quoted as saying. After animal studies have shed light on an alternative view, Dr. Gallagher and colleagues set out to determine how a reduction of hippocampal activity would affect human patients.

A low dose drug used to treat epilepsy was administered to aMCI subjects to reduce hippocampal activity to levels that were similar to healthy, age-matched subjects in a control group. The findings were astounding: administration of the drug actually improved memory task performance, thus pointing to the therapeutic potential of reducing the brain activity levels for aMCI patients.

On a larger scale, these results could affect the way Alzheimer´s disease research is approached in the future. Elevated activity in the hippocampus is observed in other conditions thought to precede Alzheimer´s disease, and could possibly be one of the mechanisms of neurodegeneration. Dr. Gallagher recognizes the direct role excess brain activity has in memory impairment and the possibilities of its link to Alzheimer´s, and she is quoted as saying that "reducing the elevated activity in the hippocampus may help to restore memory and protect the brain."

Source: Neuron, May 2012