Transdermal nicotine administered to nonsmokers with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) over a six-month period  improved primary and secondary cognitive measures of attention, memory, and mental processing (Neurology. 2012;78:91-101). 


Previous research has shown nicotine to improve cognitive performance in people who have stopped smoking and in people with Alzheimer disease. Although larger studies will be needed to determine whether the positive effects of transdermal nicotine among nonsmoking patients with MCI, an initial trial involving 74 such individuals (mean age 76 years) demonstrated promising results. 


In that study, half the participants received a nicotine patch (15 mg/day) for six months, and the other half received a placebo. By the six-month mark, the nicotine users regained 46% of normal performance for age on long-term memory, but the placebo users worsened by 26%.