Low Doses of Levetiracetam Acutely Improve Mild Cognitive Impairment

January 9, 2012 · Posted in Potential Treatments · Comment 

levetiracetamLevetiracetam, an anticonvulsant often used to prevent seizures in epilepsy, may improve memory by decreasing hippocampal hyperactivity. Hippocampal hyperactivity in amnestic mild cognitive impairment (aMCI) was once thought to be beneficial, but results from a recent study suggest that increased activity in this structure may contribute to memory impairment. Levetiracetam was effective for memory when given in much lower doses than those used to treat epilepsy.

In a study by Michela Gallagher and colleagues presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in 2011, a placebo-controlled, randomized crossover design was used to collect data from 17 aMCI patients and a similar number of healthy controls. Both groups went through two distinct treatment periods. People in the control group received placebos in both periods, while patients with aMCI received placebo during one period and low-dose levetiracetam (125mg twice daily) in the other period. After 2 weeks of taking the drug, hippocampal hyperactivity among aMCI patients decreased into the normal range, and memory was improved to the level of the healthy controls.

Editor’s Note: The findings from this small study are preliminary and need to be replicated in larger and longer studies before they are applied clinically. As we noted Friday, very low doses of lithium (150mg/day) prevented the progression of mild cognitive impairment compared to placebo in a one-year study. Whether these effects of levetiracetam or lithium are reliable, are of large effect, and occur by similar or different mechanisms remains to be determined.