In the future, we may all be wearing nicotine patches, even though we are NOT trying to quit smoking, because using a nicotine patch may help improve mild memory loss in older adults.

Nicotine has been shown to improve cognitive performance in smokers who have stopped smoking and previous short-term studies with nicotine have shown attention and memory improvement in people with Alzheimer’s disease. A new study looked at nicotine in people with mild cognitive impairment, which is the stage between normal aging and dementia when people have mild memory or thinking problems but no significant disability. Nicotine stimulates receptors in the brain that are important for thinking and memory skills, and people with Alzheimer’s disease lose some of these receptors.

After six months of treatment, the nicotine-treated group regained 46% of normal performance for age on long-term memory, whereas the placebo group worsened by 26% over the same time period. And unlike smoking, there were no serious side effects for the people on the nicotine patch.

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