Nicotine Patches May Slow Cognitive Decline in Alzheimer's Patients

A patch containing nicotine may be helpful in slowing or even arresting mild cognitive decline in Alzheimer's patients. The fact that nicotine enhances cognition is – unfortunately – not news to smokers. In fact, that's one reason they keep lighting up in the face of dire health risks. However, the researchers who developed the new medication appear to have been able to tease apart the cognitive benefit from nicotine's addictive properties.      

The scientists presented their findings at Alzheimer's Association International Conference in Vancouver. Of 74 subjects enrolled, 39 received the nicotine drug and 35 got a placebo. "This study demonstrated that transdermal nicotine can be safely administered to nonsmoking subjects with mild cognitive impairment over 6 months with improvement in primary and secondary cognitive measures of attention, memory, and mental processing," the authors wrote. 

"We conclude that this initial study provides evidence for nicotine-induced cognitive improvement in subjects with mild cognitive impairment."   However, the team cautioned that larger studies are necessary to determine whether or not these effects are clinically important.        

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