Cholinergic deficient states, such as in Alzheimer's disease, are associated with amnesia. Therapeutic trials with cholinergic augmentation in Alzheimer's disease have had only equivocal results, but mechanisms other than cholinergic deficiency may contribute to the memory deficit. Normally the diagonal band of Broca provides much of the hippocampal cholinergic input. To learn if amnesia secondary to cholinergic deficiency can be ameliorated by cholinergic augmentation, we treated an amnestic man who had a lesion located primarily in the right diagonal band of Broca with physostigmine and lecithin. During the initial best-dose-finding phase, he demonstrated an inverted U-shaped curve for immediate recall of word lists, with peak performances at 3.0 and 3.5 mg of physostigmine. Single photon emission tomography showed decreased blood flow in the medial temporal region ipsilateral to the lesion at baseline, with a reversal of the asymmetry on 3.5 mg of physostigmine. A follow-up double-blind, placebo-controlled study on 3.5 mg of physostigmine, however, failed to demonstrate that cholinergic treatment improved memory.
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