This week, research published in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, found that a nicotine patch may improve the memory loss common in mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a condition that is often a precursor to Alzheimer’s disease. Sixty-seven people completed the study which took place over six months, and according to lead investigator Paul Newhouse, MD, of Vanderbilt University, improvements were seen in attention, memory, and cognitive impairment.
This positive result could have implications for people with various neurological diseases, including Parkinson’s. To date, there has been widespread epidemiological data to suggest a protective effect in nicotine for PD: the disease is less prevalent among smokers as compared to non-smokers, and early results from pre-clinical studies have shown potential therapeutic benefits.
MJFF is funding a clinical study set to begin this spring called NIC-PD that will begin to look into the disease modifying potential of a nicotine patch, as well as its potential effects on the non-motor and in particular, cognitive features of PD. The study will engage more than 150 people across more than 20 sites in the U.S. and Germany. Clinicians will assign either nicotine or placebo patches to the participants over a 12 month period to determine efficacy against the disease.
While the recent study results on MCI are encouraging, it is important to note the relatively small scale nature of the study, and that the use of nicotine patches as a treatment for any neurological disease is still in the early stages of investigation.