by Kristofor Husted
Slapping on a nicotine patch may not just be for smokers trying to kick the habit.
“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, tells Shots. “The placebo patients stayed the same or got worse.”
Though the study was modest in size, involving about 70 people over six months, lead researcher Newhouse says it’s the largest trial ever performed looking at how nicotine might improve memory.
Previous research has linked nicotine to improved alertness, coordination and cognitive functioning. The latest work, published in Neurology, suggests it may help improve attention, memory and mental processing in people with mild memory loss.
So how does nicotine affect memory? The chemical 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.
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