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October 1980

Memory and Cognitive Function in the Elderly: A Preliminary Trial of Physostigmine

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Neurology, University of Massachusetts Medical Center, Worcester, Mass.

Arch Neurol. 1980;37(10):674-675. doi:10.1001/archneur.1980.00500590098022

Memory and cognitive (M-C) functions are known to decline with advancing age. Pharmacologic studies during the last decade have suggested that this may be due to a decrease in cholinergic function in the brains of the elderly. In particular, two lines of evidence support this concept. First, scopolamine, a cholinergic receptorblocking agent, produces a pattern of M-C impairment in young subjects that closely mimics the pattern seen in the elderly.1,2 Second, biochemical studies with the cholinergic receptor ligand, 3-quinuclidinyl benzilate (3H-QNB), have demonstrated a decline in cholinergic receptors in the cerebral cortices of the aged.3 Although centrally-active cholinergic agonists (physostigmine, choline, arecoline) have been given to young, normal subjects with some variable improvement in M-C functions4,5 and to demented patients with less consistent results,6-8 the effects of these drugs on M-C functions in normal aged subjects have not yet been studied. The purpose of this communication

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