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."
“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.”