FAQs

Do I have to already be diagnosed with MCI in order to participate?
No, though there must be memory concerns which are noticed by another person.  Memory testing will be done at the screening visit to determine study eligibility.

Can I smoke and participate in this study?
Participants must be non-smokers and may not have used any products containing nicotine in the past year.

What is Nicotine?
Nicotine is a naturally occurring chemical found in plants such as tobacco, but also in tomatoes, eggplant and cauliflower, that – when used by itself – may have medicinal benefits. In addition to memory loss, scientists are studying the potential for nicotine to treat depression, anxiety, attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD), Parkinson’s disease and even pain and obesity. In this study, we are evaluating nicotine as a possible treatment for individuals diagnosed with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI). People with MCI have more thinking and memory problems than normal, for people their age.

Why Use Nicotine to Treat Memory Loss?
Our brains have billions of nerve cells that communicate with each other using chemical messengers called neurotransmitters. Previous studies show that nicotine can act similarly to acetylcholine, a normal chemical signal in the brain that is important for thinking and memory. Some scientists believe that using nicotine will help individuals with thinking and memory impairment.  

In our earlier similar study, 74 adults diagnosed with MCI were prescribed either nicotine patches or placebo patches for 6 months. Those using actual nicotine patches showed more improvement in attention and memory than those using the placebo patches.  

Is it possible to become “addicted” to the nicotine patch?
In our earlier similar study, using the nicotine patch to treat non-smokers with MCI, there were no signs of withdrawal symptoms or cravings after stopping use of the patch.  There appears to be no risk of dependency or addiction when using the nicotine patch for this purpose.

Does the nicotine patch have side effects?
All medications can cause side effects, but many people have no, or only minor side effects, when using the patch. The most common side effects are nausea, dizziness, and headaches.  These symptoms, if they occur at all, will most likely go away very rapidly.  Some people who used the nicotine patch previously also experienced mild weight loss.  However, we have not observed serious side effects in individuals using the nicotine patch.  An important part of the screening process is to review your medical history and current medications to determine whether you are at low or high risk for side effects.

If I don’t have a memory problem now, will wearing a nicotine patch keep me from having one?
The positive results of our earlier MCI/nicotine study should not be viewed as an endorsement of nicotine for individuals without memory problems.  At this point we know, from the earlier study, that short-term use of the patch produced some improvement in those already experiencing mild memory loss, but treatment with the nicotine patch has not yet been studied as a prevention method in healthy individuals and is not recommended.

What are the responsibilities of my study partner?
Since the partner you selected to participate in the study knows you well and spends a good amount of time with you, they are likely to notice any changes in your memory that may occur during the study.  Their main purpose is to give the research staff feedback about your memory. At each visit you and your study partner will be interviewed regarding your mental and physical health.

Who do I contact if I want to participate?
If you are interested in participating, go to the Find a Location tab to find the site nearest you.  Please check the page periodically as we will be adding additional sites throughout the year.