Hyperactivity in the brain may contribute to memory loss


There is a new therapeutic approach for improving memory and slowing disease progression in patients with amnestic mild cognitive impairment. It appears that excess brain activity may be doing more harm than good for some people who experience mild cognitive decline with memory impairment.

Increased activity in specific parts of the hippocampus is found in disorders associated with increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease. The hippocampus is the part of the brain that involves memory. Amnestic mild cognitive impairment (aMCI) is one of the disorders that show this level of activity in the hippocampus. aMCI is a condition where the memory is worse than would be expected for a person’s age. “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,” explained Dr. Michela Gallagher, from Johns Hopkins University. “However, animal studies have raised the alternative view that this excess activation may be contributing to memory impairment.”

The researchers decided to test how a reduction of hippocampal activity would affect human patients with aMCI. They used a low dose drug designed to treat epilepsy in order to reduce the hippocampal activity to levels similar to those of a healthy, age-matched person. They found that treatment improved performance on a memory task.

“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,” stated Dr. Gallagher.

Source: MedicalNewsToday, Neuron

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