Could a nicotine patch improve memory? Upstate Medical University enrolling participants for new clinical trial

Local News

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Upstate Medical University’s Center of Excellence for Alzheimer’s Disease is opening a new clinical trial, aimed at improving memory and function for people with Mild Cognitive Impairment or memory loss.

It’s called the Mind Study and it stands for Memory Improvement in Nicotine Dosing.

The study is testing the effectiveness of a nicotine patch to see if it can improve memory for people with MCI, a state of memory loss between normal aging and early Alzheimer’s disease.

It may cause problems with memory, thinking, and judgment that are greater than normal age-related changes.

“They’re having trouble keeping track of names or appointments or making decisions, and we know about 10-15 percent of those with Mild Cognitive Impairment will go on to develop Alzheimer’s disease,” said Dr. Sharon Brangman, principal investigator of the study and director of the Center of Excellence for Alzheimer’s Disease.

So, why nicotine?

“There are receptors in the brain that are sensitive to nicotine,” said Brangman. “When these receptors in the brain are stimulated it may help to preserve memory.”

The patch is similar to what people use to stop smoking, but Brangman says it’s not strong enough to cause addiction or a smoking habit.

“Nicotine itself is not dangerous,” said Brangman. “It’s totally different than when it’s combined with tobacco or tobacco products because then it can combine with other chemicals and tars and that’s when we get concerned.”

Each morning, trial participants will apply a new patch along his or her chest, changing the location each day to avoid irritation.

In an earlier study, adults who used the patch for six months saw improved attention and memory, without signs of nicotine withdrawal.

The results justified the larger study, funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation.

“If we stop it at this stage will people still have a good quality of life? That can make a big difference until we find an actual cure,” said Brangman.

Interested in applying? You may be eligible to join the MIND Study if you are:

  • 55 or older
  • A non-smoker
  • Diagnosed with MCI or have experienced changes in memory
  • Able to go to an appointment every three months for up to two years
  • Have a family member or close friend to accompany you as a study partner

To learn more about the study visit or contact Upstate Geriatrics Clinical Research:


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