Treatment for learning impairment and memory loss in patients with mesial temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE) is a significant unmet need. There are no rational therapies, as the underlying neurobiology is poorly understood. New nerve cells are continually being formed (neurogenesis) in the hippocampus throughout adult life and these newly produced nerves are important for forming memory. Neurogenesis is permanently reduced in chronic TLE, which may explain some of the learning and memory problems from which patients suffer.
With previous ERUK funding we have shown that the widely available oral antidepresant drug Fluoxetine, restores both the production of new nerve cells and the ability to learn a complex spatial navigation task, in a validated animal model of temporal lobe epilepsy that exhibits exactly the same pattern of learning and memory problems seen in patients with chronic TLE.
We wish to translate these exciting findings into the clinic by seeing if oral Fluoxetine has a similar effect in patients with chronic TLE who are not depressed. If successful it will provide proof of concept that currently licensed drugs can restore learning ability in patients with TLE and further improve their quality of life.