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Psychogeriatrics. 2010 Mar;10(1):34-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1479-8301.2010.00310.x.

Adverse effects of anticholinergic activity on cognitive functions in Alzheimer's disease.

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  • 1Tokyo Metropolitan Tobu Medical Center for Persons with Developmental/Multiple Disabilities, Tokyo, Japan.



Elderly patients with Alzheimer's disease (AD) take more medicines, other than those for anti-dementia agents, than healthy people and are sensitive to anticholinergic medications. There are only a few reports, however, on the relationship between cognitive function and anticholinergic activity in AD patients, which is caused by taking prescribed medication.


We measured serum anticholinergic activity (SAA) in 76 AD patients referred to a Psychogeriatric Unit and separated them into SAA positive group (n= 26, SAA (+) group) and SAA negative group (n= 50, SAA (-) group). The difference in demographic data and cognitive functions were compared between the two groups.


The total scores of the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE), the score of MMSE domain of registration and recall were significantly lower (P < 0.05) and the Functional Assessment Staging (FAST) score, the number of different kinds of prescribed psychotropic medications (the number of prescribed psychotropic medications) were significantly higher (P < 0.05) in the SAA (+) group than in the SAA (-). These results suggest that a higher number of psychotropic medications prescribed leads to a tendency for SAA to be positive and that anticholinergic activity accelerates Alzheimer's pathology and decreases cognitive function, especially memory in AD patients. We should more prudently prescribe psychotropic medications to AD patients, because the prescribed psychotropic medications are one of the important causes of decline in cognitive function of AD patients by way of anticholinergic activity.

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