KALAMAZOO, MIAlzheimer's disease is a degenerative mental disorder which usually is marked by diminishing powers of thought and memory. A recent study at Albert Einstein College of Medicine suggests that a combination of drugs may enhance memory significantly by preserving certain chemical balances in the central nervous system.
A lower activity of the chemical acetylcholine (ACH) is common in patients with Alzheimer's disease and is thought to cause some of the disease's symptoms. Several recent studies indicate that ACH levels can be enhanced chemically. Physostigmine, for example, appears to improve memory by inhibiting the enzyme that normally breaks down ACH in the body.
The study group consisted of eight patients with Alzheimer's disease. After establishing baseline data, the patients began a daily regimen of oral physostigmine supplemented with lecithin (a naturally occurring, choline-containing fatty substance). Six of the patients improved significantly with respect to memory, both in total recall and in the length of time during which memorized items could be retained. Moreover, chemical analysis showed an inverse relationship between memory and cerebrospinal fluid levels of cholinesterase - the body enzyme that destroys ACH.