A new epilepsy drug holds promise as a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, scientists have found. The study by the University of British Columbia reinforces the theory that brain hyperexcitability plays an important role in Alzheimer’s disease, and that anticonvulsant drugs – drugs that prevent or reduce the severity of seizures – represent a promising treatment that deserve further human studies.

In previous studies, several groups have tested the effects of the widely used anticonvulsant drug levetiracetam in both rodent models as well as two clinical trials in patients with early signs of Alzheimer’s disease. The findings suggest it may slow some of the symptoms of the disease, including memory loss.

In the new research, Dr Haakon Nygaard, the Fipke Professor in Alzheimer’s Research in UBC’s Faculty of Medicine, tested the effects of brivaracetam, an anticonvulsant drug still in clinical development for epilepsy, and closely related to levetiracetam. Since it is 10 times more potent than levetiracetam, it can be used at lower dosages. Nygaard and his colleagues found that it completely reversed memory loss in a rodent model of Alzheimer’s disease.

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