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Upstate Medical studies whether nicotine in patch form can improve long-term memory and functioning

By Eric Reinhardt


Researchers at Upstate Medical University are conducting a study to see nicotine in patch form is effective in improving memory and functioning in adults diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment, or MCI. (Eric Reinhardt / CNYBJ file photo)

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Researchers at SUNY Upstate Medical University Center of Excellence for Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) are testing whether nicotine in patch form is effective in improving memory and functioning in adults diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment (MCI).

It’s called the memory improvement through nicotine dosing (MIND) study, and the medical school is looking for volunteer participants.

More than 8 million Americans are currently affected by MCI, a condition which affects memory or other thinking skills. Recent evidence indicates that adults with MCI are at a “higher risk” for subsequently developing Alzheimer’s disease, Upstate Medical said.

In an earlier study, adults with MCI who were prescribed the nicotine patch for six months had improved attention and memory, and there were no serious side effects or signs of nicotine withdrawal. These results were “encouraging and justify” this larger study, which the National Institute on Aging is funding.

The study seeks to determine if nicotine can improve attention and memory over a sustained period of time in older adults with MCI.

MIND is seeking healthy, non-smoking adults, age 55 and over who have noticed changes in their memory or whose family members have noticed changes. Those who meet the study qualifications will be placed on either daily nicotine or placebo patches.

“The MIND study offers hope for people with MCI and could provide valuable information for researchers with regards to early memory loss that is associated with normal aging and early Alzheimer’s disease,” Dr. Sharon Brangman, principal investigator for the study at Upstate, said.

Although not everyone with MCI will progress to Alzheimer’s disease, recent evidence indicates that those with MCI are at “greater risk” for developing AD. Currently, no FDA-approved treatment is available to alleviate MCI symptoms or to prevent progression to Alzheimer’s.

However, since nicotine stimulates an area in the brain known to be important for thinking and memory, scientists believe it can be an effective treatment for adults with MCI.

“I am convinced that we will find a way to help improve early memory loss and make a real difference in people’s lives. In this study, we have an inexpensive, widely available potential treatment,” said Brangman.

Seeking participants

The MIND study is looking for 300 healthy participants over the age of 55 who have been diagnosed with MCI or show symptoms of early memory loss — such as problems with memory, language, thinking and judgment that are greater than normal age-related changes.

Potential study volunteers can learn more, including how to enroll, by visiting the MIND study website at, by calling (315) 464-3285, or by emailing

Contact Reinhardt at


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