31P-MRS study of acetyl-L-carnitine treatment in geriatric depression: preliminary results

Bipolar Disord. 2002 Feb;4(1):61-6. doi: 10.1034/j.1399-5618.2002.01180.x.


Objective: This 12-week study of two elderly, depressed subjects investigated the effect of acetyl-L-carnitine (ALCAR) treatment on the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HDRS) and on measures of high-energy phosphate and membrane phospholipid metabolism.

Methods: Two mildly depressed (HDRS 15-20), non-demented male subjects 70 and 80 years old were compared with six non-demented controls (all males, mean age of 73.6 +/- 3.6 years). High-energy and membrane phospholipid metabolites were measured by phosphorus magnetic resonance spectroscopic imaging (31P MRSI) analysis. HDRS and 31P MRSI measurements were taken at entry, 6 and 12 weeks for the depressed subjects.

Results: 31P MRSI analysis revealed elevated levels of phosphomonesters [PME(s - tau(c))] in the prefrontal region of these mildly depressed subjects, which decreased with ALCAR treatment and showed a trend for correlation of the PME(s - tau(c)) levels with HDRS. ALCAR treatment also resulted in increasing levels of the prefrontal phosphocreatine (PCr), which correlated with HDRS.

Conclusions: In the prefrontal region, the mildly depressed subjects compared with controls had elevated PME(s - tau(c)) levels which normalized after 12 weeks of ALCAR and increased PCr levels after ALCAR treatment. These preliminary findings suggest further studies are warranted.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcarnitine / administration & dosage
  • Acetylcarnitine / pharmacology
  • Acetylcarnitine / therapeutic use*
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / drug therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy / methods*
  • Male
  • Nootropic Agents / administration & dosage
  • Nootropic Agents / pharmacology
  • Nootropic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Phosphocreatine / metabolism
  • Phosphoric Monoester Hydrolases / metabolism
  • Prefrontal Cortex / metabolism*
  • Severity of Illness Index


  • Nootropic Agents
  • Phosphocreatine
  • Acetylcarnitine
  • Phosphoric Monoester Hydrolases