Alzheimer's, Dementia & Mental Health
Reducing Brain Activity Improves Memory in Amnestic Mild Cognitive Impairment
Reducing the elevated activity in the hippocampus may help to restore memory and protect the brain
May 9, 2012 – Stop thinking so much – excess brain activity may be doing more harm than good in some conditions that
cause mild cognitive decline and memory impairment. This could be a new therapeutic approach for improving memory and modifying disease
progression in patients with amnestic mild cognitive impairment.
Elevated activity in specific parts of the hippocampus, a brain region involved in memory, is often seen in disorders
associated with an increased risk for Alzheimer's disease, according to background information in the report published by Cell Press in the
May 10 issue of the journal Neuron.
Amnestic mild cognitive impairment (aMCI), where memory is worse than would be expected for a person's age, is one such
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"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," explains senior study author, Dr. Michela
Gallagher, from Johns Hopkins University.
"However, animal studies have raised the alternative view that this excess activation may be contributing to memory
Dr. Gallagher and colleagues tested how a reduction of hippocampal activity would impact human patients with aMCI.
The researchers used a low dose of a drug used clinically to treat epilepsy, for the purpose of reducing hippocampal
activity in subjects with aMCI to levels that were similar to activity levels in healthy, age-matched subjects in a control group.
The researchers found that treatment with the drug improved performance on a memory task. These findings point to the
therapeutic potential of reducing excess activation in the hippocampus in aMCI.
The results also have broader significance as elevated activity in the hippocampus is also observed in other conditions
that are thought to precede Alzheimer's disease, and may be one of the underlying mechanisms of neurodegeneration.
"Apart from a direct role in memory impairment, there is concern that elevated activity in vulnerable neural networks
could be causing additional damage and, possibly, widespread disease-related degeneration that underlies cognitive decline and the conversion
to Alzheimer's disease," concludes Dr. Gallagher.
"Therefore, reducing the elevated activity in the hippocampus may help to restore memory and protect the brain."
Other scientists who participated in this research at Johns Hopkins University include Arnold Bakker, PhD, Greg Krauss,
MD, Marilyn Albert, PhD, Carolyn Speck, Lauren Jones, Michael Yassa, PhD, Amy Shelton, PhD, Susan Bassett, PhD, together with Craig Stark, PhD
at University of California at Irvine. The research was support by the National Institutes of Health.
Dr. Gallagher is the founder of AgeneBio, a biotechnology company focused on developing treatments for diseases that have
an impact on memory, such as amnestic mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's disease. The company is headquartered in Indianapolis.
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