Brief Alerts

Cholinergics Improve Memory in Aphasics

Source: Tanaka Y, et al. Effects of increased cholinergic activity on naming in aphasia. Lancet (letter) 1997;350:116-117.

As Alert readers well know, anticholinergic drugs impair memory in normals, whereas cholinergic activators such as donepezil (Aricept) bring improvement in a measurable fraction of persons with Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Citing putative reduction of left temporal lobe cholinergic activity accompanying fluent aphasia, Tanaka et al tested the effects of the cholinergic drug bifemelane 300 mg/d on four aphasic patients. Two patients took the drug for one month, and two did not. All four patients had analysis of CSF acetylcholinesterase (AchE) activity as well as three separate memory tests before and immediately after the test period. Both language scores (P < 0.01) and AchE (not significant) increased in the treats but not controls.


Your editor always hesitates to report the results of trials in small samples over short periods. Nevertheless, when risks are small, the problem important, and the results possibly favorable, Alert believes that its readers should share in the "news." We await results of larger studies on cholinergic efforts to improve memory but, for now at least, such agents appear to have potential benefit, and competition should soon drive down market prices. —fp