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Lancet. 2001 Dec 1;358(9296):1885-92.

Pyrrolidone derivatives.

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Department of Clinical Neurology, Institute of Neurology, National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, Queen Square, University College London, WC1, London, UK.


The pyrrolidone (2-oxopyrrolidine) family of chemicals has been the subject of research for more than three decades. Experimental and clinical work first focused on their so-called nootropic effects; later came the possibilities for neuroprotection after stroke and use as antiepileptic agents. Piracetam, the first of the class, was developed by pioneering research by C Giurgea in the late 1960s, and it was he who coined the term "nootropic", to mean enhancement of learning and memory. The term is sometimes extended to include other actions such as neuroprotection. These properties, together with the lack of other generally adverse psychopharmacological actions (eg, sedation, analgesia, or motor or behavioural changes), distinguish the pyrrolidones from other psychoactive drug classes. The mechanisms of action of these drugs are still not fully established; indeed, different compounds in this class may have different modes of action. Interest in this drug class has recently been reawakened by the licensing of levetiracetam as a potentially major new antiepileptic drug and of piracetam for its antimyoclonic action and effects after stroke and in mild cognitive impairment. Other drugs in this class are currently at an advanced stage of development, and the renewal of interest in this therapeutic area is likely to mean not only that more pyrrolidones will enter clinical practice in the next few years but also that the clinical indications of drugs already licensed will widen.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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