Older people with mild cognitive impairment may get some help from a nicotine patch, a study suggests.
Researchers tested nicotine patches and a placebo on memory and other brain functions in 74 people (average age 76) in a double-blind study. None of the participants, who had minor memory loss, was a current smoker, although some had smoked previously. The patches were worn for six months and tests on memory and thinking skills were administered at the start of the study, and three and six months later.
The nicotine group showed improvements in memory, mental processing and attention, compared to those in the placebo group. The nicotine patch group recovered 46% of what would be considered normal performance for their age group on long-term memory, while the placebo group went down 26%.
Other studies have shown a link between nicotine and improvements in memory, attention and learning. It's believed that nicotine helps trigger receptors for neurotransmitters involved in memory and other brain functions. In people with Alzheimer's disease some of those neurotransmitters may be lost.