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Neuropsychol Rev. 1996 Jun;6(2):61-79.

Increased regional cerebral glucose metabolism and semantic memory performance in Alzheimer's disease: a pilot double blind transdermal nicotine positron emission tomography study.

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Department of Psychiatry, Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, Springfield and Carbondale 62794-1412, USA.


Nicotinic receptor dysfunction and impaired semantic memory occur early in Alzheimer's disease patients (AD). Previous research implied that nicotine's ability to enhance alertness, arousal, and cognition in a number of nonclinical populations was a function of its ability to stimulate CNS nicotinic cholinergic receptors. In this study it was hypothesized that transdermal administration of nicotine would increase both regional cerebral glucose metabolism (rCMRglc) and semantic memory (as assessed by verbal fluency). Two mild AD and two elderly controls underwent positron emission tomography scanning during a double blind nicotinic agonist verbal fluency challenge procedure. rCMRglc increases occurred in both AD patients, but not controls. In the two AD patients, verbal fluency scores increased by an average of 17%. One elderly control's verbal fluency increased, and the other decreased. These findings suggest that nicotine's effect on metabolism and verbal fluency is due to its ability to stimulate the cholinergic system.

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