© 2023 WRVO Public Media
NPR News for Central New York
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Upstate Medical University starting clinical trial on whether nicotine could improve memory

Ellen Abbott
Dr. Sharon Brangman of Upstate Medical University with a nicotine patch used as part of an Alzheimer's Disease study

Upstate Medical University in Syracuse is starting a new clinical trial to find out whether a nicotine patch can improve the memory of people diagnosed with the precursor for Alzheimer’s Disease. 

Upstate’s Center of Excellence for Alzheimer’s Disease will use the same kind of nicotine patches that help people quit smoking in a study of whether nicotine can slow the progression of Alzheimer’s Disease. 

Sharon Brangman, chair of the Geriatrics Department, said Alzheimer’s starts many years before the disease becomes evident, often in the form of mild cognitive impairment. So, in a study funded by the Department of Aging, researchers hope to learn whether a daily dose of nicotine to people with MCI, can slow down the progression of the disease.

"That would be huge because right now, we don’t have a cure for Alzheimer’s Disease," Brangman said. "So if we can delay it in the early stages, that would allow someone to have a higher quality of life for longer."

Brangman said other studies have shown that nicotine stimulates an area of the brain known for thinking and memory.

"We know that Alzheimer’s is a disease of aging. But we know that it starts many decades before when we are probably middle aged. It’s important for us to figure this out, because we can focus on this problem way before it appears," she said.

Upstate is looking for non-smoking adults over the age of 55 who have noticed changes in memory. If they are diagnosed with MCI, they can become part of the two-year study. This study follows other research that has found that nicotine, has a positive effect on memory.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.