Study explores nicotine patch to treat mild cognitive impairment

From the Winter 2018 edition of Vanderbilt Medicine Magazine

Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) is one of 29 sites participating in a national study to determine whether a daily transdermal nicotine patch will have a positive effect on attention and early memory impairment in older adults diagnosed with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI).

Paul Newhouse, MD, director of the Center for Cognitive Medicine at VUMC, is the national director of the study.

More than 8 million Americans are currently diagnosed with MCI, a condition that affects memory or other thinking skills. Recent evidence shows that adults with MCI are at a higher risk for subsequently developing Alzheimer’s disease.

MCI is diagnosed when memory problems become more apparent than would be expected in normal aging. Symptoms include memory loss, problems with attention, and mild difficulties learning and retaining new information.

People participating in the Memory Improvement Through Nicotine Dosing (MIND) study will participate in 12 visits over a two-year period at one of the 29 sites.

“I am convinced that we will find a way to help improve early memory loss and make a real difference in people’s lives. In this study, we have an inexpensive, widely available potential treatment,” said VUMC’s Newhouse, Jim Turner Professor of Cognitive Disorders and professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences.

Nicotine, a natural plant alkaloid, binds to very specific receptors in the brain that are important for thinking and memory and may have neuroprotective effects. People with Alzheimer’s disease are known to lose some of those receptors.

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