An Interesting Study

In 2008, a study was released showing that nicotine may slow dementia in its early stages.  The study was done on rats and tested if a task could be completed successfully with or without nicotine as well as with or without distractions.

Jumping forward to this week, a new article appeared on the BBC indicating that this line of study has continued.  The new study has investigated the use of nicotine patches as a cognitive boost for patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), also known as "pre-dementia."  The new study is small, only involving 67 people.  However, preliminary findings indicate a gain back to normal performance for age on long-term memory.  The findings were not statistically significant which means that the results don't rule out chance results and studies need to continue for a longer time and with more study subjects.

The interesting thing in all this is that the nicotine slots into certain receptors in the brain which are lost in Alzheimer's patients.  I wonder if the introduction of nicotine, particularly in non-smokers, is stimulating activity in the brain and this activity itself is leading to the slight slowing of dementia.  Is nicotine like exercise for the brain cells?

Now, given that there is a potential therapeutic benefit to the use of nicotine, I'd be remiss if I didn't also point out that nicotine is addictive and toxic.  So, don't start smoking in the hopes of getting a bit of a cognitive boost.  The additional health risks really aren't worth it.


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