Cholinesterase inhibitors are compounds that inhibit the action of this enzyme, acetylcholinesterase. Treatment with cholinesterase inhibitors indirectly raises the level of acetylcholine by preventing its breakdown, thereby leading to improved attention, mental arousal, learning, and memory. In fact, cholinesterase inhibitors have now reached the forefront of treatment in Alzheimer's disease, and memory loss more broadly.
If you step back for a moment and think about the issue, this indirect approach does seem a bit odd. Why not directly increase the amount of acetylcholine by pouring it directly into the synapse, or administer a substance (precursor) that is converted to acetylcholine in the brain? Well, these strategies have been tried with compounds like choline and lecithin.
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