A common antiepileptic has been found to reverse amnestic mild cognitive impairment (aMCI) in elderly patients with high risk for dementia due to Alzheimer’s disease, a study published in NeuroImage: Clinical has found.

Scientists from Johns Hopkins University studied an intervention based on animal research demonstrating a beneficial effect on cognition by reducing excess hippocampal neural activity with low doses of the atypical antiepileptic levetiracetam. The double-blind, randomized trial enrolled 84 patients, of which 17 were normal healthy participants and the rest had symptoms of aMCI.

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Each of the three cohorts of aMCI participants received a different dose of levetiracetam. Low doses of the drug (62.5mg and 125mg twice daily) improved memory performance and normalized the hyperactivity detected by functional MRI that measures brain activity during a memory task. Higher dosing (250mg twice daily) did not show significant benefit on task performance or functional MRI activation.

Results from this study support the team’s initial conclusions which were published three years ago in Neuron. Future large-scale research will focus on whether long-term treatment will prevent further cognitive decline and delay or stop the progression to Alzheimer’s dementia, researchers suggest.

For more information visit JHU.edu.