Reversing Corticosteroid Induced Memory Impairment

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The University of Texas System (UT)

Status and phase

Phase 4


Memory Impairment


Drug: Placebo
Drug: Lamotrigine

Study type


Funder types



R01MH082845 (U.S. NIH Grant/Contract)

Details and patient eligibility


Medically stable outpatients receiving chronic oral corticosteroid therapy were enrolled in a 48-week randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-group, trial of lamotrigine.

Full description

Stress and corticosteroid exposure are associated with changes in both the human and animal hippocampus. An extensive literature suggests that corticosteroid-induced changes in the hippocampus are, in part, mediated through increases in extracellular glutamate. In animals, agents that decrease glutamate release prevent dendritic changes in the hippocampus secondary to stress or corticosterone. We have developed a research program using patients receiving prescription corticosteroids (e.g., prednisone) to explore the effects of corticosteroids on the human hippocampus. Our research program is translational in focus, with a goal of exploring whether the reported effects of corticosteroids on the animal hippocampus are also found in humans. A current focus of our research is examining glutamate release inhibitors in patients taking corticosteroids. We have both open-label and placebo-controlled pilot data suggesting that the glutamate release inhibitor lamotrigine is associated with significant improvement in declarative memory (a measure of hippocampal performance) in this population. A definitive study examining declarative memory in corticosteroid-dependent patients receiving lamotrigine vs. placebo is proposed. Neuroimaging and mood will also be assessed.


54 patients




18 to 70 years old


No Healthy Volunteers

Inclusion criteria

  • 18-70 years old
  • English-speaking men and women
  • Physician diagnosis of any chronic medical condition requiring treatment with oral corticosteroids confirmed by chart review and/or patients assessment by the PI or co-I.s.
  • Receiving prednisone therapy of at least 5 mg of prednisone daily for at least 6 months with anticipated treatment for ≥ 15 additional months.

Exclusion criteria

  • Baseline RAVLT total T-Score ≥ 60
  • Illnesses associated with CNS involvement (e.g., multiple sclerosis, lupus, seizures, brain tumors, head injury with loss of consciousness of more than 30 minutes) or cognitive impairment (e.g., lifetime drug or alcohol dependence, schizophrenia, and mood disorders - e.g., bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder) that appear to be unrelated to corticosteroid use or history of ventilator use that suggests hypoxia. We will include patients with lupus if they do not appear, based on medical history and discussion with treating physician, have significant CNS involvement. We will include participants with brief loss of consciousness. In prior studies we have found that many otherwise eligible participants were excluded due to very brief LOC in childhood or in a motor vehicle accident.
  • Mental retardation or other severe cognitive impairment.
  • Pregnant or nursing women.
  • Severe or life-threatening medical illness that would make completion of study unlikely or study participation potentially unsafe (e.g., highly unstable asthma requiring frequent hospitalization)
  • Contraindications to lamotrigine therapy (severe side effects in the past, taking medications such as some anticonvulsants with drug-drug interactions with lamotrigine).
  • High risk or danger to self or others as defined by > 1 lifetime suicide attempt or assault, any suicide attempt or assault within the past year, and active suicidal or homicidal ideation that includes a plan and intent
  • Therapy with medications (valproate, carbamazepine, primidone, phenytoin, rifampin, phenobarbital) that alter the metabolism of lamotrigine
  • Metal implants, claustrophobia, or other contraindications to MRI

Trial design

Primary purpose

Health Services Research



Interventional model

Parallel Assignment


Quadruple Blind

54 participants in 2 patient groups, including a placebo group

Active Comparator group
Dose titration: begin at Baseline at 25mg PO QD for two weeks. Increase to 50mg PO QD at Week 2 for two weeks. Increase to 100mg PO QD at Week 4. Increase to 150mg PO QD at Week 5. Increase to 200mg PO QD at Week 6. Increase to 250mg PO QD at Week 7. Increase to 300mg PO QD at Week 8. Increase to 350mg PO QD at Week 9. Increase to 400mg PO QD at Week 10. Stay at 400mg PO QD from Week 10 to Week 48.
Drug: Lamotrigine
Placebo Comparator group
Placebo administered the same as the Lamotrigine just described.
Drug: Placebo

Trial contacts and locations



Data sourced from

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