autumn newsletter

In This Issue:

  • Anti-seizure Medication Improves Cognitive Function in Alzheimer’s
  • Patients with Epileptic Activity
  • Neuropathology in the Study of Neurologic Diseases
  • New Additions to the Easton Center
  • Clinical Research Opportunities
  • Upcoming Events

The Mary S. Easton Center for Alzheimer’s Disease Research at UCLA has very active teams working on basic research, drug discovery, biomarkers for early diagnosis and clinical activity including clinical trials, cognitive testing, and patient care.

Anti-seizure Medication Improves Cognitive Function in Alzheimer’s Patients with Epileptic Activity 

Keith Vossel, MD, MSc, Neurologist, Physician, Center Director at the Mary S. Easton Center for Alzheimer's Research and Care at UCLA

By: Keith Vossel, MD, MSc
In the Sept. 27th issue of JAMA Neurology,1 we published the highly anticipated results of a phase 2a clinical trial of levetiracetam for patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Levetiracetam is an inexpensive anti-seizure medication that is widely used to treat epilepsy. We found that it markedly improves learning and memory and other cognitive functions in Alzheimer’s patients who have epileptic activity in their brains.

Alzheimer’s disease is the leading cause of dementia worldwide. Early symptoms include
short-term memory loss, decline in problem solving, word-finding difficulties, and trouble navigation. Among Alzheimer’s patients, an estimated 10-22% develop seizures, while an additional 22-54% exhibit silent epileptic activity, which is seizure-like brain activity without the associated
physical convulsions.

We showed in earlier studies that patients who experience silent epileptic activity in their brains have a more rapid decline in cognitive function. We chose to test the anti-seizure medication levetiracetam, which is approved by the FDA because it performed well in animal models of Alzheimer’s disease. Now available as a generic, levetiracetam costs around $70 per year. The dose tested in the trial was 125 mg twice a day, far less than a typical dose used for epilepsy.

In the study, 54 patients with mild Alzheimer’s symptoms were screened for silent epileptic activity using an electroencephalogram (EEG) to monitor them overnight, as well as an hour-long magnetoencephalogram (MEG) to record magnetic waves generated from electrical activity. MEG can detect epileptic activity that EEGs miss because it’s looking at a different population of brain cells.

Among the patients screened for the study, 34 patients were eligible to participate, with nearly 40% having epileptic activity, and the remainder having no epileptic activity (patients on anti-seizure medications due to preexisting seizure disorders were excluded prior to screening).

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