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J Neuropsychiatry Clin Neurosci. 2011 Summer;23(3):242-60. doi: 10.1176/appi.neuropsych.23.3.242.

Psychopharmacological neuroprotection in neurodegenerative diseases, part III: criteria-based assessment: a report of the ANPA committee on research.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Neurology Section, Mercer University School of Medicine, Macon, GA, USA.


Neuroprotective therapies for neurodegenerative diseases (NDDs) have proven elusive. The established psychotropic agents commonly used to treat the neuropsychiatric manifestations of NDDs are potential neuroprotective therapies, and neuropsychiatrists and others may benefit from a knowledge of the neuroprotective properties of these medications. This report identifies FDA-approved, first-line psychotropic drugs affecting intracellular mechanisms and meriting disease-modifying clinical trials in NDDs. The authors evaluated evidence for neuroprotection according to 1) preclinical; and 2) clinical criteria. Despite low-to-moderate preclinical evidence scores and scant clinical evidence, the most promising investigative priorities are 1) lithium and paroxetine in Alzheimer's disease (AD); 2) lithium in tauopathies (frontotemporal lobar degeneration [FTLD], FTDP-17); 3) lithium-plus-valproate in AD and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; 4) pramipexole and valproate in Parkinson's disease; 5) amantadine and buspirone in multiple system atrophy; and 6) antidepressants in Huntington's disease. Preliminary clinical results signal caution regarding olanzapine use in AD and poor tolerability of lithium in progressive supranuclear palsy and corticobasal degeneration. These preliminary findings can lead to further clinical drug trials on the use of these well-known medications, not only for their psychotropic effects, but also for neuroprotection in NDDs.

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