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Possible Early Dementia (cont.)

Medications

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).

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