Reduction of excess brain activity improves memory in amnestic mild cognitive impairment

May 9, 2012

Research published in the May 10 issue of the journal Neuron, describes a potential new therapeutic approach for improving memory and modifying disease progression in patients with amnestic mild cognitive impairment. The study finds that excess brain activity may be doing more harm than good in some conditions that cause mild cognitive decline and memory impairment.

Elevated activity in specific parts of the hippocampus, a brain region involved in memory, is often seen in disorders associated with an increased risk for Alzheimer's disease. Amnestic (aMCI), where memory is worse than would be expected for a person's age, is one such disorder. "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," explains senior study author, 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."

Dr. Gallagher and colleagues tested how a reduction of hippocampal activity would impact human patients with aMCI. The researchers used a low dose of a drug used clinically to treat epilepsy, for the purpose of reducing hippocampal activity in subjects with aMCI to levels that were similar to activity levels in healthy, age-matched subjects in a control group. The researchers found that treatment with the drug improved performance on a . These findings point to the therapeutic potential of reducing excess activation in the hippocampus in aMCI.

The results also have broader significance as elevated activity in the hippocampus is also observed in other conditions that are thought to precede Alzheimer's disease, and may be one of the underlying mechanisms of neurodegeneration. "Apart from a direct role in , there is concern that elevated activity in vulnerable neural networks could be causing additional damage and, possibly, widespread disease-related degeneration that underlies and the conversion to Alzheimer's disease," concludes Dr. Gallagher. "Therefore, reducing the elevated activity in the hippocampus may help to restore memory and protect the brain."

Explore further: Study finds older adults with mild cognitive impairment may also have some functional impairment

More information: Bakker et al.: "Reduction of hippocampal hyperactivity improves cognition in amnestic mild cognitive impairment.", DOI:10.1016/j.neuron.2012.03.023

Related Stories

Recommended for you

New insights on how cocaine changes the brain

November 25, 2015

The burst of energy and hyperactivity that comes with a cocaine high is a rather accurate reflection of what's going on in the brain of its users, finds a study published November 25 in Cell Reports. Through experiments conducted ...

Can physical exercise enhance long-term memory?

November 25, 2015

Exercise can enhance the development of new brain cells in the adult brain, a process called adult neurogenesis. These newborn brain cells play an important role in learning and memory. A new study has determined that mice ...

Brain connections predict how well you can pay attention

November 24, 2015

During a 1959 television appearance, Jack Kerouac was asked how long it took him to write his novel On The Road. His response – three weeks – amazed the interviewer and ignited an enduring myth that the book was composed ...

Umbilical cells help eye's neurons connect

November 24, 2015

Cells isolated from human umbilical cord tissue have been shown to produce molecules that help retinal neurons from the eyes of rats grow, connect and survive, according to Duke University researchers working with Janssen ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.