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Upstate conducts trial on memory loss

Upstate clinical trial seeks to examine whether nicotine in patch form can improve long term memory and functioning

More than 8 million Americans are currently affected by Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), a condition which affects memory or other thinking skills. Recent evidence shows that adults with MCI are at a higher risk for subsequently developing Alzheimer’s disease (AD). 

The Memory Improvement Through Nicotine Dosing (MIND) study currently being conducted by researchers at SUNY Upstate Medical University Center of Excellence for Alzheimer's Disease is testing whether nicotine in patch form is effective in improving memory and functioning in adults diagnosed with MCI. In an earlier study, adults with MCI who were prescribed the nicotine patch for six months, had improved attention and memory, and there were no serious side effects or signs of nicotine withdrawal.  These results were encouraging and justify this larger study, funded by the National Institute on Aging.

This study seeks to determine if nicotine can improve attention and memory over a sustained period of time in older adults with MCI. MIND is seeking healthy, non-smoking adults, age 55+ who have noticed changes in their memory or whose family members have noticed changes. Those who meet the study qualifications will be placed on either daily nicotine or placebo patches.

“The MIND study offers hope for people with MCI and could provide valuable information for researchers with regards to early memory loss that is associated with normal aging and early Alzheimer’s disease,” said Sharon Brangman, MD, principal investigator for the study at Upstate. 

Although not everyone with MCI will progress to Alzheimer’s disease, recent evidence indicates that those with MCI are at greater risk for developing AD.  Currently, there is no FDA-approved treatment to alleviate MCI symptoms or to prevent progression to Alzheimer’s.  However, since nicotine stimulates an area in the brain known to be important for thinking and memory, scientists believe it can be an effective treatment for adults with MCI.

“I am convinced that we will find a way to help improve early memory loss and make a real difference in people’s lives. In this study, we have an inexpensive, widely available potential treatment,” said Brangman.

The MIND Study is looking for 300 healthy participants over the age of 55 who have been diagnosed with MCI or show symptoms of early memory loss—such as problems with memory, language, thinking and judgment that are greater than normal age-related changes. 

Potential study volunteers can learn more, including how to enroll, by visiting the MIND study website at MINDstudy.org, calling (315) 464-3285 or by emailing [email protected].