piracetam psychological and pharmacological treatment

Interaction between psychological and pharmacological treatment in cognitive impairment

Deberdt W.

UCB Pharma,
Chemin du Foriest, Braine-l’Alleud, Belgium.
Life Sci 1994;55(25-26):2057-2066


In contrast to other kinds of psychotropic drugs, nootropics or cognition enhancing drugs may be indicated, not for the direct treatment of the pathology itself, but for improving or restoring the remaining brain functions. Brain functions are normally trained during various kinds of non-medical therapy, such as physiotherapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy, memory training etc. In research little attention has been paid to the combination of both kinds of therapeutic approaches, probably because of the important methodological difficulties. This combination however, offers various interesting perspectives: L. ISRAEL examined in two placebo-controlled studies the effects of either 160 mg/d of ginkgo biloba extractum (GBE) or piracetam 2.4 or 4.8 g/d, combined with a memory training program, in nondemented patients complaining of memory problems. The results of both studies suggest that nootropic drug treatment and memory training have each an effect on different cognitive functions and, hence, are complementary. Some functions, like attention/perception in the GBE study and learning in the piracetam study, seem to benefit from both treatments, suggesting a mutually potentiating effect of drug treatment and training. This potentiation is very clear in the treatment of dyslexic children: in a placebo-controlled study piracetam 3.3 g/d, in combination with normal school teaching and more specific logopedic therapy, allowed a normal progression during the full school year in reading accuracy and reading comprehension, while the placebo treated children getting a similar training progressed only with 50%. Recently promising results were obtained in the treatment of dysphasic patients with a combination of speech therapy and piracetam 4.8 g/d, especially when given during the first months after the stroke, or otherwise in combination with an intensive speech training. In both double-blind studies the piracetam treated group improved about 60% more than the group who only got speech therapy and placebo. All these data may be explained by the restorative or enhancing influence of nootropic drugs on neurotransmitter systems closely related to learning and memory functions. E.g. piracetam restores the availability and function of muscarinic and NMDA receptors in aging animals, most probably through a modulation of the psychico-chemical properties of the neuronal membrane such as the membrane fluidity.