Acetylcholine, a chemical found naturally in the brain and associated with memory performance, is chemically similar to nicotine in cigarettes. If levels of acetylcholine are lowered in the brain, in such conditions as Alzheimer’s disease, memory performance is also lowered.
This could explain the study published in Neurology stating that a nicotine patch could help improve memory performance in patients with mild memory impairment, a precursor to Alzheimer’s. According to researchers, when given a placebo memory performance stayed the same, or worsened.
This new study, the largest trial ever performed on the connection between nicotine and memory, involved 70 people over the age of 55 over a six-month period. Neuroscientists explain, “Nicotine actually mimics the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which stimulates nerve cell receptors in the brain. Stimulating these receptors revs up the system involved in attention, learning and memory skills.”
This goes along with finding that say smokers who have quit or cut down on their nicotine intake seem to report more memory problems. If their memory function is not impaired, eventually their brain rebounds and their memory returns to normal.
There was no significant change found in the person’s ability to handle everyday activities, even though the nicotine did improve their memory somewhat.
Subjects did not suffer any serious side effects, and had no problem discontinuing their treatment after the study. This research suggests that nicotine may also help improve attention and mental processing in addition to memory. Any idea that you want to improve your memory by using a nicotine patch, however, should be discussed with your physician before attempting.
More research is necessary, with a longer trial period and more subjects, before the use of nicotine patches can be conclusively determined to aid in helping those with dementia to improve their cognitive functions.
About the author:
Ron White is a two-time U.S.A. Memory Champion
MemoryZine.com – Nicotine Patch Reduced Early Memory Loss In MCI Study: http://memoryzine.com/2012/01/12/nicotine-showed-improvement-in-early-memory-loss-study/