Levetiracetam Improves Cognitive Function for Some Individuals with Alzheimer Disease

Patients with senile dementia who have silent epileptic activity show improvement when taking this medication.

Levetiracetam, an anti-seizure medication, has been shown to improve learning, memory, and other cognitive functions in individuals with Alzheimer disease (AD) who also have epileptic activity, study results show.

“This is a drug that’s used for epilepsy,” Keith Vossel, MD, MSc, director of the Mary S. Easton Center for Alzheimer’s Disease Research at University of California in Los Angeles, said in a statement. “We used it in this study for Alzheimer’s patients who had evidence of silent epileptic activity, which is seizure-like brain activity without the associated physical convulsions.”

Study results showed that individuals treated with levetiracetam showed improvement in cognitive function, and those with silent epileptic activity showed a clear benefit from the drug.

Investigators screened 54 individuals with AD symptoms for silent epileptic activity using an electroencephalogram to monitor them overnight and a magnetoencephalogram to record magnetic waves from electrical activity.

The study included 24 participants, nearly 40% of whom had epileptic activity.

Individuals were divided into 2 groups, where 1 group was given 125 mg of levetiracetam twice a day for 4 weeks and the other group was placed on a placebo. The groups switched treatments after the 4 weeks and then continued the other treatment for a 4-week period.

“There were very clear differences between the groups,” Vossel said.

“There’s a subtype of Alzheimer’s disease, consider it an epileptic variant, that’s quite common, occurring in approximately 60% of patients,” he said. “Patients with this form of Alzheimer's disease show symptomatic improvement with levetiracetam.”

Individuals in the study were already taking approved medication for AD, which shows that levetiracetam improves cognitive function better than treatments can independently.

Early symptoms include decline in problem solving, short-term memory loss, and word finding difficulties.

The study results were published in JAMA Neurology.

Reference

Anti-seizure medication improves cognitive function in some Alzheimer’s patients. EurekAlert. News release. September 27, 2021. Accessed September 28, 2021. https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/929734