Antidepressants may also lessen Alzheimer’s symptoms

A type of medication frequently prescribed to treat ADHD and other diseases may enhance cognitive function and lessen apathy in Alzheimer’s patients, according to a new study

Drugs used to treat depression and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may help enhance cognition and lessen apathy in Alzheimer’s patients.

It was first proposed in the 1980s that this group of pharmaceuticals, known as noradrenergic agents, may be helpful in the treatment of Alzheimer’s.

At the time, damage to the locus coeruleus, a region of the brainstem, was discovered during the autopsy of Alzheimer’s patients who had passed away.

Noradrenaline crucial for memory

Noradrenaline, a neurotransmitter crucial for memory, learning, and other cognitive processes, is produced in this area. It was hoped that noradrenergic medications, which raise noradrenaline levels, might be able to counteract deficiencies in these abilities in Alzheimer’s patients.

But interest waned, according to Michael David of Imperial College London, when a few modest experiments failed to yield compelling findings.

Since then, improvements in imaging have made it possible for researchers to assess the small brainstem nucleus locus coeruleus’s decline in living individuals with Alzheimer’s and determine how it could affect their symptoms.

Lots of studies analysed for the findings

David and his colleagues decided to re-evaluate these therapies in light of this development as well as the introduction of new noradrenergic medications. The researchers gathered information from 19 clinical studies of this class of medications that involved 1811 patients with moderate cognitive impairment or Alzheimer’s disease.

They examined 10 trials with a total of 1300 participants to analyse how the medications affected general cognitive capacity as determined by widely used examinations. When compared to placebos, the medications produced very minor improvements: the standardised mean difference, a metric that allows researchers to compare results across various study types, was 0.14.

With a standardised mean difference of 0.38 in patients with Alzheimer’s, trials with cholinesterase inhibitors, which are frequently recommended to enhance cognition, have a greater impact.

The researchers examined eight trials involving 425 individuals in relation to apathy. The studies used standardised scoring systems to measure changes in motivation. Noradrenergic medications significantly enhanced this situation; the standardised mean difference was 0.45. Other symptoms like attentiveness or agitation showed no effects.

Apathy most prevalent sign of Alzheimer’s in patients

According to David, one of the most prevalent and distressing signs of Alzheimer’s in patients is apathy, or the loss of drive. There are no licenced drugs that address this component of the illness at the moment. To establish which of these classes of medications might be most beneficial, additional study is necessary.

The investigation contained information on 12 drugs, each of which has a unique impact on the brain.

According to Jim Ray from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, who wasn’t involved in the research, it is also uncertain how their effects could change as the disease progresses.

To address these issues, clinical trials are being conducted, but David predicts that the findings won’t be accessible for a few more years.