Researchers at the Indiana University School of Medicine are suggesting that older adults may want to rethink taking certain over-the-counter medications such as nighttime cold medicines, because of a link they found to cognitive impairment.
Using brain imaging techniques, the researchers found lower metabolism and reduced brain sizes among study participants taking the drugs known to have an anticholinergic effect, meaning they block acetylcholine, a nervous system neurotransmitter.
Previous research found a link between between the anticholinergic drugs and cognitive impairment and increased risk of dementia. The new paper published in the journal JAMA Neurology, is believed to be the first to study the potential underlying biology of those clinical links using neuroimaging measurements of brain metabolism and atrophy, according to the university.
Drugs with anticholinergic effects are sold over the counter and by prescription as sleep aids and for many chronic diseases including hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.