Seniors who wore a nicotine patch showed improved symptoms of memory loss in a recent study published in Neurology.
Participants in the study had mild cognitive impairment, a stage of memory loss that occurs between normal aging and dementia, when others start to notice a memory or thinking problem. The 74 participants were non-smokers with an average age of 76, and were all given a number of cognitive tests that measured attention memory, speed of processing and consistency of processing.
The group of participants that was given 15 milligrams of nicotine via a patch for the six-month study regained 46 percent of normal performance for age on long-term memory, whereas the placebo group's abilities declined by 26 percent over that period.
Study author Dr. Paul Newhouse says that while this study should not encourage seniors to start smoking or using a nicotine patch, it offers interesting insight for scientists into how the "fascinating drug with interesting properties" could be used for Alzheimer's care.
"This study provides strong justification for further research into the use of nicotine for people with early signs of memory loss which may help us determine whether benefits persist over long periods of time and provide meaningful improvement," he said.