A study led by Michela Gallagher of The Johns Hopkins University and published in the May 10 issue of the journal Neuron 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.
Recent news from The Johns Hopkins University
This section contains regularly updated highlights of the news from around The Johns Hopkins University. Links to the complete news reports from the nine schools, the Applied Physics Laboratory and other centers and institutes are to the left, as are links to help news media contact the Johns Hopkins communications offices.
An existing anti-seizure drug improves memory and brain function in adults with a form of cognitive impairment that often leads to full-blown Alzheimer’s disease, according to a study led by neuroscientist Michela Gallagher of The Johns Hopkins University. The findings raise the possibility that doctors will someday be able to use the drug, levetiracetam, already approved for use in epilepsy patients, to slow the abnormal loss of brain function in some aging patients before their condition becomes Alzheimer’s.
It’s something we just accept: the fact that the older we get, the more difficulty we seem to have remembering things. We can leave our cars in the same parking lot each morning, but unless we park in the same space each and every day, it’s a challenge eight hours later to recall whether we left the SUV in the second or fifth row. Or, we can be introduced to new colleagues at a meeting and will have forgotten their names before the handshake is over. We shrug and nervously reassure ourselves that our brains’ “hard drives” are just too full to handle the barrage of new information that comes in daily. According to a Johns Hopkins neuroscientist, however, the real trouble is that our aging brains are unable to process this information as “new” because the brain pathways leading to the hippocampus-the area of the brain that stores memories-become degraded over time. As a result, our brains cannot accurately “file” new information (like where we left the car that particular morning), and confusion results. A study on the subject appeared in the May 9 Early Online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Using a $1.3 million National Institutes of Health grant underwritten by the federal stimulus act, Krieger School psychologist Michela Gallagher and her team are about to embark on one of their most important studies yet: determining whether a medication commonly used to treat seizures can help improve memory and brain function in adults suffering from mild cognitive impairment, or MCI, a common precursor to full-blown Alzheimer’s disease.