Study: Anticholinergic Medication Linked to Brain Dysfunction in Older Adults

May 4, 2016 | Strategic Insights for Health System


Use of anticholinergic (AC) medication is associated with increased brain atrophy and dysfunction as well as clinical decline in cognitively normal older adults, according to an Indiana University study published April, 18, 2016 in JAMA-Neurology. The study involved 451 participants drawn from the Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative and the Indiana Memory and Aging Study, 60 of whom were taking at least one medication with AC activity. The researchers assessed the results of memory and other cognitive tests, as well as positron emission tests to measure brain metabolism, and used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to look at brain structure. Patients taking AC drugs performed worse than other older adults on short-term memory tests, as well as some tests involving executive function. Additionally, AC drug users were found to have lower levels of glucose metabolism in both the overall brain and the hippocampus. MRI scans found reduced brain volume and larger ventricles in those who took anticholinergic drugs.

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