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Nicotinic stimulation and Parkinson's disease



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A description of the experience

Brain Cogn. 2000 Jun-Aug;43(1-3):274-82. The effects of nicotine on Parkinson's disease.  Kelton MC, Kahn HJ, Conrath CL, Newhouse PA. Department of Psychiatry, College of Medicine, University of Vermont, USA.

Post-mortem studies have demonstrated a substantial loss of nicotinic receptors in Parkinson's disease (PD), which may be at least partially responsible for some of the cognitive, motoric, and behavioral deficits seen in this disorder.

Epidemiologic studies have suggested that cigarette smoking is a strong negative risk factor for the development of PD. We have previously shown that blockade of central nicotinic receptors produces cognitive impairment in areas of new learning, short-term memory, and psychomotor slowing with increasing dose sensitivity with age and disease.

Studies of acute stimulation of nicotinic receptors in Alzheimer's disease with nicotine in our laboratory and others have shown improvements in several measures of cognitive function. Prior studies of the effects of nicotine in PD have suggested some improvements in clinical symptomatology.

We have begun quantitative studies of both acute and chronic nicotine in PD to assess both cognitive and motor effects. Fifteen (15) nondemented subjects (age 66 +/- 5.3; M/F = 11/4) with early to moderate PD (mean Hoehn-Yahr stage = 1.77; MMSE = 28.6) received a dose-ranging study of intravenous nicotine up to 1.25 microg/kg/min, followed by chronic administration of nicotine by transdermal patch with doses ranging up to 14 mg per day for 2 weeks.

Testing occurred both during drug administration and up to 2 months after drug cessation to look for prolonged effects. Preliminary analysis shows improvements after acute nicotine in several areas of cognitive performance, particularly measures such as reaction time, central processing speed, and decreased tracking error.

Improvements in attention and semantic retrieval were not seen. After chronic nicotine, improvements were seen in several motor measures suggesting improved extrapyramidal functioning. This appeared to be sustained for up to 1 month after drug. The treatment was well tolerated. Nicotinic stimulation may have promise for improving both cognitive and motor aspects of Parkinson's disease.

PMID: 10857708

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