A class of medications used to treat depression, ADHD, and high blood pressure is also useful in lowering apathy among Alzheimer’s patients.
The medications target the neurotransmitter noradrenaline, which participates in cognitive processes such as learning, focus, and emotional regulation.
In the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, the noradrenergic system is frequently affected by damage to the region of the brain that regulates the release of noradrenaline. The loss of cells in this region has been related to common dementia symptoms, such as apathy – a lack of excitement or motivation.
50-70 percent of dementia sufferers are afflicted with apathy. Apathy caused by Alzheimer’s disease can make it difficult to perform daily duties such as taking a shower and preparing food, which can lead to health problems. A person with apathy may withdraw from activities they formerly enjoyed and place more strain on others.
To determine if apathy and other dementia symptoms may be treated with noradrenaline-targeting medicines, researchers from the University of Cambridge, Imperial College London, and University College London analyzed 19 studies involving 1,810 patients.
The results demonstrated that the medications had positive benefits on the neuropsychiatric symptoms of apathy and agitation, as well as on the patients’ general cognition.
Although there is still much to learn about the association between Alzheimer’s disease and noradrenaline, repurposing currently available medications that target the neurotransmitter could provide an effective Alzheimer’s treatment in a reasonably short period of time. A dementia researcher at Imperial College London, stated, “Apathy is one of the most common symptoms of Alzheimer’s, but it is poorly understood.”
A dysfunction in the noradrenergic system could prevent patients from identifying things that require them to perform, which in turn could induce an apathetic mood, suggesting a fluid, likely two-way relationship between apathy and cognitive impairment.
According to experts, however, additional clinical trials are required to clarify problems regarding dosage and drug interactions with other dementia treatments.
“There is currently no specific, authorized medicine for apathy in Alzheimer’s disease. The statistics for methylphenidate, a medication included in the present meta-analysis, are encouraging, but there is no FDA-approved treatment for this extremely prevalent and debilitating illness “The new study was conducted by Dr. Paresh Malhotra, a neurologist at Imperial College London.
The organization is currently seeking to conduct additional clinical trials. Malhortra is conducting a clinical trial at Imperial involving the ADHD medicine guanfacine, a noradrenergic agent.