Keith Vossel, M.D.
CA - 29/29 - The Regents of the University of California, San Francisco
San Francisco, CA - United States
As many as 20 percent of people who have Alzheimer's disease experience brain seizures, and other forms of abnormal brain activity may be even more common. These seizures resemble those experienced by people who have epilepsy, and they can have both immediate and long-lasting effects on brain function. For example, people who have Alzheimer's disease and seizures experience more rapid declines in brain function than people who have Alzheimer's but no seizures.
Some animal models of Alzheimer's disease also exhibit seizures. Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) have studied whether drugs used to control epilepsy can inhibit seizures in these animals. After testing a large number of anti-epilepsy drugs, they found one that inhibits seizures in mice that have an Alzheimer's-like condition. This drug, levetiracetam, is already in use to treat epilepsy in humans. A small study showed that levetiracetam reduced brain overactivity and modestly improved brain function in people who had amnestic mild cognitive impairment, a memory impairment that sometimes precedes Alzheimer's disease.
The UCSF scientists, led by Keith Vossel, M.D., have proposed a clinical trial of levetiracetam in 36 people who have early-onset Alzheimer's disease and mild brain seizures that can be detected by electrical recordings of brain activity. Participants in the trial will receive levetiracetam for four weeks, a placebo for four weeks, and no treatment for four weeks.
Participants in the trial will be monitored by electrical recording of brain activity, which can show the presence or absence of seizures. The researchers will also test how levetiracetam affects brain function by measuring how well the participants perform on several tests of thinking, learning and memory. This study will help determine if levetiracetam warrants further study as a treatment for seizures in people who have early-onset Alzheimer's disease.
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