Serotonergic therapies for cognitive symptoms in Alzheimer's disease: rationale and current status
Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the most common cause of dementia in elderly people. Research focused on identifying compounds that restore cognition and memory in AD patients is a very active investigational pursuit. Cholinesterase inhibitors for the symptomatic treatment of cognitive decline in AD have been in use for more than a decade but provide only modest benefits in most patients. Preclinical research is constantly providing new information on AD. The involvement of the serotonergic system in higher cognitive processes such as memory and learning has been widely described and extensive serotonergic denervation has been reported in AD. This review aims to explain the rationale behind testing serotonergic therapies for AD in terms of current knowledge about the pathophysiology of the disease. Based on preclinical studies, certain serotonin (5-HT) receptor ligands have been suggested to have the ability to modify or improve memory/cognition, specifically 5-HT receptors acting at 5-HT1A, 5-HT4 and 5-HT6 receptors. This article summarizes the pharmacology, efficacy, safety and tolerability data for the various serotonergic agents currently in clinical development for AD.