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Am J Psychiatry. 2003 Nov;160(11):2003-11.

Randomized, placebo-controlled trial of the effects of donepezil on neuronal markers and hippocampal volumes in Alzheimer's disease.

Author information

  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC 27710, USA. krish001@mc.duke.edu



The authors examined the effect of the acetylcholinesterase inhibitor donepezil on magnetic resonance markers of neurodegeneration in Alzheimer's disease.


In this randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot study, 67 patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease received 24 weeks of treatment with donepezil (5 mg/day for the first 28 days and 10 mg/day thereafter) or placebo. Patients were reevaluated at 6-week intervals to measure change from baseline in several outcome measures, including right, left, and total hippocampal volumes, measured with magnetic resonance imaging; brain concentrations of N-acetylaspartate, measured with proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy; and cognition, assessed with the Alzheimer's Disease Assessment Scale cognitive subscale.


At some interim assessments, mean normalized measures of N-acetylaspartate concentration tended to be higher in the donepezil-treated patients than in the patients who received placebo, but these differences were not significant at endpoint. At endpoint, the donepezil-treated patients had significantly smaller mean decreases in total and right hippocampal volumes and a smaller, nearly significant mean decrease in left hippocampal volume, compared with the placebo-treated patients. Mean Alzheimer's Disease Assessment Scale cognitive subscale scores were improved after treatment with donepezil, relative to placebo, at weeks 6, 12, 18, and 24.


These preliminary results suggest that donepezil may have a potentially protective effect in Alzheimer's disease. Larger, longer-term confirmatory studies of the medication's effects are warranted.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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