Alzheimer’s Disease Nicotine’s relationship and contribution to dementia

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Alzheimer’s Disease

Characteristics of Alzheimer’s

Two major theories on the cause of Alzheimer’s disease

  • The Amyloid Cascade Theory:

  • Neruodegenerative process is triggered by the abnormal accumulation of amyloid plaques.

Role of Nicotine in Acetylcholine

  • Nicotinic receptors bind to acetylcholine.

  • Improve cognitive performance.

  • Prevent death of brain cells.

  • Delay cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s disease.

Other Neurotransmitters Systems

  • Nicotine increases dopamine release, a neurotransmitter critical in the proper functioning of the prefrontal cortex.

  • In Alzheimer’s, the dopamine system is affected, decreasing levels of the neurotransmitter in the cortex and in the hippocampus.

  • Dopamine agonists promote spatial working memory performance.

  • Studies show that only very small doses of the agents can achieve these improvements.

  • Excessive dopamine stimulation has been found to be harmful to prefrontal cortex function.

Nicotine also promotes the release of other neurotransmitters: norepinephrine and seratonin

  • Norepinephrine, as well as dopamine, has a vital influence on prefrontal cortex cognitive functioning. There is a 60% loss of norepinephrine neurons in aged primates and humans, and this loss is significantly increased in Alzheimer’s disease.

  • Some seratonin agonists are important in cognitive enhancement. They are used to manipulate other neurotransmitters systems such as acetylcholine, dopamine, and norepinephrine to alleviate behavioral and psychological symptoms in dementia.


  • A water-insoluble alkaloid used to treat nervous system disorders.

  • Cognitive test scores of patients taking galanthamine improved.

  • Galanthamine has been found to improve memory by inhibiting an enzyme that breaks down acetylcholine and acts on the brain’s nicotinic receptors.


  • There is evidence showing improvement in cognitive performance in patients with Down’s syndrome and Parkinson’s disease when administered nicotine.

  • Studies state that nicotine can improve performance on a variety of tasks including learning, memory, and cognitive functioning.

  • Clinical observations show that long-term use of nicotine (i.e., smoking) is negatively correlated with risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

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