acetylcholinesterase inhibitor


acetylcholinesterase inhibitor
any one of a class of drugs that block the action of acetylcholinesterase (see cholinesterase), an enzyme that quickly breaks down the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. This neurotransmitter is central to the functional interconnection between nerve cells in the outer layer (cortex) of the brain; the early impairment of cognitive function found in Alzheimer's disease is associated with a reduction in acetylcholine levels. By inhibiting acetylcholine breakdown, acetylcholinesterase inhibitors have been found helpful in slowing down the rate of cognitive decline in the early stages of the dementia; they do not halt the progress of the disease. The group includes donepezil (Aricept), galantamine (Reminyl), and rivastigmine (Exelon); these drugs are given by mouth.

Medical dictionary. 2011.

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