Original Investigation


, Volume 171, Issue 4, pp 465-471

First online:

Chronic transdermal nicotine patch treatment effects on cognitive performance in age-associated memory impairment

  • Heidi K. WhiteAffiliated withDepartment of Medicine, Duke University Medical CenterCenter for the Study of Aging and Human Development, Duke University Medical CenterGeriatric Research, Education and Clinical Center, VAMC
  • , Edward D. LevinAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Duke University Medical CenterDepartment of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology, Duke University Medical CenterCenter for the Study of Aging and Human Development, Duke University Medical Center Email author 

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Chronic transdermal nicotine has been found to improve attentional performance in patients with Alzheimer’s disease (AD), but little is known about chronic nicotine effects in age-associated memory impairment (AAMI), a milder form of cognitive dysfunction. The current study was performed to determine the clinical and neuropsychological effects of chronic transdermal nicotine in AAMI subjects over a 4-week period.


The double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over study consisted of two 4-week periods separated by a 2-week washout period.


An outpatient setting was used.


The subjects (n=11) met criteria for AAMI.


The subjects were given nicotine patches (Nicotrol) to wear for 16 h a day at the following doses: 5 mg/day during week 1, 10 mg/day during week 2 and week 3 and 5 mg/day during week 4.


The effects of nicotine treatment were determined with the clinical global impressions questionnaire, Conners’ Continuous Performance test, and the automated neuropsychologic assessment metrics (ANAM) computerized neuropsychology battery.


Nicotine significantly improved the clinical global impression score as assessed by participants, as well as objective tests of attentional function on the Connors’ Continuous Performance Test and decision reaction time on the neuropsychology test battery. Nicotine did not improve performance on other tests measuring motor and memory function.


Chronic transdermal nicotine treatment in AAMI subjects caused a sustained improvement in clinical symptoms and objective computerized tests of attention. These results support the further investigation of nicotinic treatment as a promising therapy for AAMI.


Nicotine Age-associated memory impairment Attention Nicotine skin patches