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NICOTINE patches can improve the memory of elderly people experiencing early mental decline, research has shown.

The small pilot study, though not conclusive, may point the way to new treatments that delay the onset of Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia.

Scientists carried out memory and thinking skill tests on 67 individuals with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) over a period of six months.

Half the participants, who had an average age of 76, were treated daily with 15mg of nicotine administered via a skin patch. The others were asked to wear a dummy placebo patch containing no active medication.

By the end of the study the nicotine-treated group had regained 46% of normal longterm memory for their age. Their ability to pay attention also improved.

However, the authors of the research were quick to scuttle any suggestion that smoking might stave off Alzheimer's.

"People with mild memory loss should not start smoking or using nicotine patches by themselves, and a medication such as nicotine should only be used with a doctor's supervision," said Dr Paul Newhouse, from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, US.

"But this study provides strong justification for further research into the use of nicotine for people with early signs of memory loss."
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jan 16, 2012
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