Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Brain & Nervous System Health Center

Font Size

Nicotine Patch May Improve Memory in Pre-Dementia Patients

Small Study Shows Significant Benefits in Memory

Unanswered Questions continued...

Nicotine therapy was associated with a small reduction in blood pressure and weight loss of about 5 pounds at the end of the study period. In elderly adults, this is not always a healthy thing.

“It’s much safer than treating people with cigarettes, that’s obvious,” says Grill, director of the Katherine and Benjamin Kagan Alzheimer's Disease Treatment Development Program at UCLA. “But there is potential for addiction, and reductions in blood pressure are worth discussing, especially in older patients.”

Newhouse says there is a lot of interest in the development of nicotine-based drugs. Pfizer, the pharmaceutical company, donated the patches used for the study, which was funded in part by the National Institute on Aging and the National Institute of General Medical Sciences.

How the Patch Works

The patch used in this study is different from patches commonly available in the U.S., says Newhouse.

“They don’t dump nicotine [into the bloodstream] as quickly as American patches. Instead, they release it more slowly. For our study, they worked particularly well,” he says.

Newhouse says that nicotine appears to help the brain consolidate memory. By that he means the process of taking in information and permanently storing it in the brain for future recall.

“Memories need to be encoded, stored, and retrieved, and all of these steps can have problems,” says Newhouse. “It looks like nicotine helps that process. Patients in the study did not remember more right away, but they forgot less over time.”

More Research Needed

While the results of the study are promising, Newhouse says it will take a much larger study, one that includes hundreds of patients, to draw real conclusions about nicotine’s potential to restore memory loss and to protect against disease. He is optimistic.

“There’s strong interest now, and we understand the biology much better,” Newhouse says.

Both Newhouse and Grill say researchers in the field are pushing hard to identify the onset of dementia at earlier and earlier stages, in hopes of finding ways to halt its progress and prevent the devastation of the disease. Doing so, however, will require new methods of studying how patients react to treatments.

Today on WebMD

nerve damage
Learn how this disease affects the nervous system.
senior woman with lost expression
Know the early warning signs.
woman in art gallery
Tips to stay smart, sharp, and focused.
medical marijuana plant
What is it used for?
senior man
boy hits soccer ball with head
red and white swirl
marijuana plant
brain illustration stroke
nerve damage
Alzheimers Overview
Graphic of number filled head and dna double helix