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Nicotine Patches May Help Fight Dementia

Their ability to help smokers quit is being challenged. Luckily, they may have another use.

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Patches offer hope to pre-dementia patients. Photo via

By Valerie Tejeda

01/11/12

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In some welcome relief for manufacturers of nicotine patches—who face evidence that their product may not help smokers quit at all—a new study in the journal Neurology suggests patches may improve the brain function of the elderly. The study focused on 74 people in their mid-70s with pre-dementia signs of memory loss. Participants wore nicotine patches for six months and completed a variety of memory and thinking tests. After six months, the nicotine group recovered 46% of what would be considered normal memory performance, while the placebo group dropped 26%. Past studies have shown a link between nicotine and memory improvement and experts believe nicotine helps trigger the neurotransmitters in the brain that improve memory. Doctors warn that this new research is no reason to start smoking, and the use of a patch without medical supervision isn't advised.

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