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Donepezil improves episodic memory in young individuals vulnerable to the effects of sleep deprivation.

Author(s): Chuah LY, Chong DL, Chen AK, Rekshan WR 3rd, Tan JC, Zheng H, Chee MW

Affiliation(s): Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory, Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School, Singapore.

Publication date & source: 2009-08, Sleep., 32(8):999-1010.

Publication type: Randomized Controlled Trial; Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

STUDY OBJECTIVES: We investigated if donepezil, a long-acting orally administered cholinesterase inhibitor, would reduce episodic memory deficits associated with 24 h of sleep deprivation. DESIGN: Double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover study involving 7 laboratory visits over 2 months. Participants underwent 4 functional MRI scans; 2 sessions (donepezil or placebo) followed a normal night's sleep, and 2 sessions followed a night of sleep deprivation. SETTING: The study took place in a research laboratory. PARTICIPANTS: 26 young, healthy volunteers with no history of any sleep, psychiatric, or neurologic disorders. INTERVENTIONS: 5 mg of donepezil was taken once daily for approximately 17 days. MEASUREMENTS AND RESULTS: Subjects were scanned while performing a semantic judgment task and tested for word recognition outside the scanner 45 minutes later. Sleep deprivation increased the frequency of non-responses at encoding and impaired delayed recognition. No benefit of donepezil was evident when participants were well rested. When sleep deprived, individuals who showed greater performance decline improved with donepezil, whereas more resistant individuals did not benefit. Accompanying these behavioral effects, there was corresponding modulation of task-related activation in functionally relevant brain regions. Brain regions identified in relation to donepezil-induced alteration in non-response rates could be distinguished from regions relating to improved recognition memory. This suggests that donepezil can improve delayed recognition in sleep-deprived persons by improving attention as well as enhancing memory encoding. CONCLUSIONS: Donepezil reduced decline in recognition performance in individuals vulnerable to the effects of sleep deprivation. Additionally, our findings demonstrate the utility of combined fMRI-behavior evaluation in psychopharmacological studies.

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