Epilepsy Drug Could Treat Abnormal Alzheimer’s Brain Activity

Alissa Sauer
By Alissa SauerAugust 7, 2017

Research suggests that many people with Alzheimer’s disease may have seizure-like activity occurring in the brain, even though the more physical attributes of a seizure are not present. A Harvard Medical School research team recently tested the effects of a common anti-seizure medication on abnormal brain activity in people with Alzheimer’s to find that the drug, given in a high dose, was successful in reducing brain activity abnormalities.

Learn more about the study and why researchers are calling for a more in-depth study to fully understand the effects of the drug on Alzheimer’s.

Exploring the Link Between Epilepsy and Alzheimer’s

A new study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease found that a drug commonly used to prevent seizures in people with epilepsy may also help treat the seizure-like brain activity in people with Alzheimer’s.

It’s no secret that people who have Alzheimer’s are at risk for other ailments, including an increased risk of developing epilepsy.

While most people don’t experience any seizures with noticeable symptoms, research has suggested that seizure-like brain activity is still occurring in the brain and could lead to the cognitive decline seen in people with the disease.

A team from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) at Harvard University Medical School tested levetiracetam (LEV), commonly used to treat seizures in people with epilepsy, to see if it could reduce the seizure activity happening in the brains of people with dementia. The drug has been tested before on mice and showed promising effects – normalizing brain activity and reducing cognitive impairment in some cases.

Treating Abnormal Brain Patterns in People with Alzheimer’s

The double-blind study evaluated the effects of the drug on seven people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in its mid-stages. All participants received three injections, either a low dose of LEV, a high dose of LEV or a placebo. Following each injection, participants were given an EEG to detect abnormal electrical activity in the brain. Study participants also took cognitive tests to evaluate any changes in executive, language or memory function.

The study showed that the participants who received a high dose of LEV had a reduction in abnormalities of brain activity but no improvement in cognitive test results.

Researchers believe more research needs to be done before the drug can be widely used for people with dementia due to its small sample size, the lack of a control group of people without Alzheimer’s, and to see how the drug could affect people with Alzheimer’s if used over a long period of time.

Even with its limitations, the results of the study were promising enough to have researchers calling for a larger and longer study to more fully understand how an anti-seizure drug could help people living with Alzheimer’s and related forms of dementia.

Do you think an anti-seizure drug could help people with dementia? Does your loved one with dementia suffer from seizures? Share your stories with us in the comments below.

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Alissa Sauer

Alissa Sauer

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