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DURHAM, N.C., Dec 03, 2003 (United Press International via COMTEX) -- Nicotine patches that help smokers quit might also boost the recall of seniors suffering mild memory loss.
While nicotine patches haven't been approved for long-term use, Duke University Medical Center researchers say their preliminary study involving 11 people could point the way to other nicotine-like drugs that might improve memory without the side effects of nicotine.
Previous research has suggested nicotine might benefit people with a variety of disorders including schizophrenia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and Alzheimer's disease. But the latest study is the first to examine the drug's effects on people with age-associated memory impairment.
In a small sample of seniors, the researchers found that four weeks of nicotine treatment halved decision times on a standardized test of memory and increased participants' ability to focus their attention.
The researchers emphasize that despite the possible benefits of nicotine, the results should not encourage smoking. They also caution that nicotine patches have associated health risks, such as nausea, dizziness, and increases in blood pressure and heart rate.
The findings will appear in a forthcoming issue of the journal Psychopharmacology.
Copyright 2003 by United Press International.