Study adds to growing 'use it or lose it' theory for Alzheimer's patients

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Results of a recent study have added to growing evidence that stimulating activities for the mind, combined with certain Alzheimer's drugs, may help provide mental and functional benefits to Alzheimer's patients.

Offering a program of active cognitive stimulation in conjunction with an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor, resulted in greater mental and functional benefits in patients in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease than taking the drug alone, according to researchers at the University of Texas at Dallas.

Fifty-four Alzheimer's patients, ranging in age from 54 to 91, took part in the randomized study, which was funded by the manufacturer and U.S. distributor of the drug Aricept (donepezil hydrochloride). All patients in the study were diagnosed in a mild to moderate stage of the disease and received the drug Aricept. While 28 patients were treated with only the drug, 26 patients also took part in a cognitive stimulation program which included participant-led discussions requiring homework and other reading and writing exercises.

Researchers concluded that patients receiving mental stimulation plus the drug showed a slower rate of decline than patients taking the drug alone. Specific results noted by researchers included a slower rate of disease progression, reduced irritability and improved or stabilized meaningful conversation.

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