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Possible Early Dementia (cont.)


The medications used in Alzheimer's disease have also been tried in MCI. Those that have worked the best so far are the cholinesterase inhibitors.

  • Cholinesterase is an enzyme that breaks down a chemical in the brain called acetylcholine. Acetylcholine acts as an important messaging system in the brain, but it is impaired in many people with MCI.
  • Cholinesterase inhibitors stop the breakdown of this neurotransmitter. They increase the amount of acetylcholine in the brain and improve brain function in MCI.
  • These drugs may improve or stabilize cognitive functions. They also may have positive effects on behavior and everyday activities.
  • They are not a cure, but they may slow down conversion of MCI into dementia. In many people, the effect is fairly modest but definite. In others, these drugs do not have much of a noticeable effect.
  • The effects are temporary, since these drugs do not change the underlying cause of the MCI, which remains unknown.
  • Examples of cholinesterase inhibitors include donepezil (Aricept), rivastigmine (Exelon), and galantamine/galanthamine (Reminyl). These drugs have in effect replaced an older drug called tacrine (Cognex).


People with MCI should be checked regularly because of their increased risk for dementia.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/1/2015
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