Use of Constipation Drugs Show Improved Cognitive Function


In a study, individuals who were taking prucalopride had better memory tests and fMRI scans indicating enhanced brain activity in relation to cognition.

Drugs used to treat individuals with constipation may be able to help individuals with cognitive difficulties due to mental illness, the results of a recent study show.

“Participants who had taken prucalopride for 6 days performed much better than those receiving placebo on the memory test; the prucalopride group identified 81% of previously viewed images versus 76% in the placebo group. Statistical tests indicate that this was a fairly large effect, such an obvious cognitive improvement with the drug was a surprise to us,” Angharad De Cates, BMBCh (Hons), MSc, MRCPsych, of the University of Oxford, said in a statement.

After animal studies showing that the drugs target 1 of the serotonin receptors and shows promise to improving cognitive functions, investigators set up a trial with 44 healthy individuals aged 18 through 36 years.

Individuals were split into 2 groups: 1 that received prucalopride (23 individuals) and 1 that received the placebo (21 individuals).

Individuals were shown a series of animals and landscapes before entering a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner. Then they viewed the images again along with similar images during the MRI scan. After the scan, individuals were asked which images they saw before the scan and which ones were new during the scan.

Investigators found that those who were taking prucalopride were significantly better at the memory tests and had functional magnetic resonance imaging scans indicating enhanced brain activity in relation to cognition.

“This is a proof-of-concept study, and so a starting point for further investigation. We are currently planning and undertaking further studies looking at prucalopride and other 5HT4 agonists in patient and clinically vulnerable populations, to see if our findings in healthy volunteers can be replicated and have clinical importance,” De Cates said.

Cognitive impairment can include decreased attention, language, social cogitation, and working memory. The effects are associated with bipolar disorder, major depression, and schizophrenia.

The study findings were presented at the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology conference in Lisbon.


Intestinal drug shown to boost memory and cognition. EurekAlert. News release. October 3, 2021. Accessed on October 5, 2021.

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