NPR for North Texas
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
On Our Minds is the name of KERA's mental health news initiative. The station began focusing on the issue in 2013, after the mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. Coverage is funded in part by the Donna Wilhelm Family Fund and Cigna.

Researchers Try Nicotine To Treat Memory Loss

Pondworks Psychiatry

Researchers in San Antonio are recruiting people with mild cognitive impairment for a nationwide study to see if nicotine improves symptoms.

The study is called the MIND study -- Memory Improvement Through Nicotine Dosing.

Those behind the study are trying to find out if people who are starting to have memory problems experience improvement if they're treated with nicotine, according to director Sudha Seshadri, the director of UT Health San Antonio's Glenn Biggs Institute for Alzheimer’s and Neurodegenerative Diseases.

“Nicotine makes receptors, and these are present in many parts of the body, but -- importantly -- they’re present in the memory circuits in the hippocampus of the brain,” she said.

"It's been known for some time that nicotine itself could have beneficial effects in even reducing diseases such as Parkinson's disease," she added.

The nicotine will be delivered through a transdermal patch, and the results of this study may have implications for those who are at risk for dementia.

"In this stage of mild cognitive impairment we know that a certain proportion of people will go on to develop dementia,” Seshadri said, “so the hope is to see whether people using the patch are less likely to progress than those on the placebo."

The National Institute on Aging is recruiting 300 people nationwide for the two year study.

“We are recruiting people who have what is called mild cognitive impairment where they are symptomatic, they feel that their memory is not what it used to be, and they test below what we would consider the normal range for their age, gender, and education,” Seshadri said.

If researchers conclude nicotine might be a useful treatment for some with mild cognitive impairment, Seshadri said it may become an option for all patients.

“It may not be that a nicotine patch is the right answer for everybody, but it may be one of the tools we have to be given, certainly along with lifestyle prescriptions like a healthy diet and physical activity,” Seshadri said. “But it could be a valuable tool.”

Bonnie Petrie can be reached at and on Twitter at @kbonniepetrie.

Copyright 2020 Texas Public Radio. To see more, visit Texas Public Radio.

Bonnie Petrie is a proud new member of the news team at WUWM. She is a reporter who - over her twenty year career - has been honored by both the Texas an New York Associated Press Broadcasters, as well as the Radio, Television and Digital News Association, for her reporting, anchoring, special series production and use of sound.
Bonnie Petrie
Bonnie Petrie covers bioscience and medicine for Texas Public Radio.