Neurotransmitters are chemicals in the brain that are released between neurons and act as messengers of information throughout the brain. From previous research, we know that nicotine stimulates a receptor site for a particular neurotransmitter called acetylcholine, which is important for thinking and memory. Nicotine has been tested in people with Alzheimer's disease and produced small benefits. This may be because those with Alzheimer’s disease have already lost too many of these receptors, making nicotine less effective.
In Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), however, individuals still have many of these receptors, which make make nicotine more effective for memory improvement.
In our earlier study, 74 adults diagnosed with MCI were prescribed nicotine or placebo patches for 6 months. Those using the nicotine patch had improvement in attention and memory. There were no serious side effects and no signs of nicotine withdrawal. These results were encouraging and justify this larger study.