Hippocampal structure and the action of cholinomimetic drugs

John G. Csernansky*, Mark E. Bardgett, Hongxin Dong, William Humphrey, Lei Wang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Cholinomimetic drugs have become the clinical standard for the treatment of patients with dementia of the Alzheimer type (DAT). However, uncertainty remains as to the proportion of patients that respond to such drugs, and how one might predict the capacity for response before treatment is begun. The thesis of the present review is that the neuroanatomical integrity of the hippocampus determines, at least in part, the capacity of DAT patients to respond to cholinomimetic drugs. Neuroimaging studies suggest that volume losses and other neuroanatomical deformities of the hippocampus are common in patients with even mild DAT. Moreover, more severe neuroanatomical deformities of the hippocampus are associated with more severe dementia symptoms and more rapid clinical decline. Animal research, including studies of cholinergic antagonists, glutamatergic antagonists, hippocampal lesions, and animals with mutant amyloid precursor protein genes, demonstrate that behavioral abnormalities similar to those found in DAT patients, especially those related to memory, are associated with hippocampal pathology. Cholinomimetic drugs, in particular, the cholinesterase inhibitors, have been shown to reverse some but not all of these behavioral abnormalities. More research is needed in DAT patients to determine whether an analysis of hippocampal structure or function can reliably predict the outcome of treatment with cholinomimetic drugs. Further work in animals is also needed to determine the limitations of cholinomimetic drugs for reversing various types of cognitive deficits, and to develop and test other pharmacological strategies for the treatment of DAT.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)531-540
Number of pages10
JournalDrug Development Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 1 2002


  • Acetylcholine
  • Animal models
  • Cholinesterase inhibitors
  • Hippocampus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Drug Discovery


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