Nicotine's effect on neural and cognitive functioning in an aging population

Aging Ment Health. 2002 May;6(2):129-38. doi: 10.1080/13607860220126808.


Tobacco is a dangerous and addictive drug being consumed by more than 13% of Americans over the age of 65. Of the people in this cohort it has been estimated that between 24% and 85% experience some form of age related cognitive decline and 30-50% of the population will be diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease by the age of 85. Recent advances in nicotine research have pointed to a number of cognitive and neurological benefits that have been linked to the ingestion of nicotine. These discoveries hold the potential of new drugs and therapies that retain and improve upon nicotine's benefits while eliminating the negative impact that both nicotine and tobacco possess. This article examines cognitive decline in the elderly and looks at nicotine's potential role in ameliorating this decline. In service to this, the neurological and cognitive actions of nicotine are reviewed, as are theories on the neurological degeneration associated with Alzheimer's disease (AD).

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Alzheimer Disease / drug therapy*
  • Cognition / drug effects
  • Cognition Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Ganglionic Stimulants / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Nicotine / pharmacology*
  • Receptors, Nicotinic / drug effects
  • Receptors, Nicotinic / physiology


  • Ganglionic Stimulants
  • Receptors, Nicotinic
  • Nicotine