Anti-epilepsy drug ‘Levetiracetam’ is being tested by researchers as a way of tackling disrupted electrical activity in the brain, which has been seen in both epilepsy and dementia.
Over the last decade there has been mounting evidence that seizure-like activity in the brain, experienced by those who epilepsy, also occurs with dementia but is not necessarily always seen by doctors, as it is subclinical.
This means it does not result in a physical seizure, and can only be seen on a brain scan.
Daniel Z. Press said: “If this abnormal electrical activity is leading to more damage [in Alzheimer’s patients] then suppressing it could potentially slow the progression of the disease.”
The study at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centre took a small group of patients in a three-stage trial. At each visit they were given a scan to measure electrical activity in the brain, before being injected with either an inactive placebo or the anti-seizure drug.
The drug was administered in two quantities - the lower dose (2.5mg/kg) or higher dose (7.5 mg/kg). Neither patients nor medical professionals knew who was receiving which.
After this injection they underwent another ECG scan, then an MRI, and finally a cognitive test - all of which were able to test the functioning that is impaired with the onset of dementia.
The found that in the patients who had been given the drug it did normalise abnormal brain waves and electrical activity, although were quick to add that they hadn’t seen improved cognitive function.
Press said: “It’s too early to use the drug widely, but we’re preparing for a larger, longer study.”
The NHS estimates that around 850,000 people in the United Kingdom have Alzheimer’s (the most common type of dementia), which manifests as a progressive neurological disease and affects multiple brain functions, including memory.