Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Could a Nicotine Patch Boost Memory?

Many longtime smokers who finally kick the habit report that their brain gets a little "fuzzy," and they have trouble remembering even simple things. They attribute it to the withdrawal, and now there's a study that suggests they are correct. It may be the nicotine - or sudden or gradual loss of it - that slows down their thoughts.

A study being reported in various news media today gave dermal patches to 70 individuals, some with nicotine and others with a placebo.

"There were improvements in attention and memory performance in patients who took the nicotine patch compared to those with the placebo patch," lead researcher Dr. Paul Newhouse, a Vanderbilt University psychiatrist, told National Public Radio. "The placebo patients stayed the same or got worse."

Newhouse was quick to point out that the patch worked only on those who might show signs of Mild Cognitive Impairment, which is sometimes a precursor to Alzheimer's Disease. (Not everyone with MCI advance to Alzheimer's.) Those already diagnosed with latter-stage Alzheimer's likely would not see an improvement because the receptors in the brain that nicotine taps are already damaged by the disease.

And the researchers caution that this limited study does not imply people with mild memory impairment should take up smoking, which has long been known to cause cancers and other life-threatening illnesses - including vascular dementia.

As the smoking rate in the U.S. continues to decline - it's currently around 15% of the population; 11.5% in California - the makers of nicotine patches will no doubt welcome the possibility of another use. But much more research is needed to see if introducing nicotine to the pristine system of a non-smoker is really the best way to obtaining a memory boost.

Article: Nicotine Patches Up Early Memory Loss

No comments: