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Role of the Nicotinic System in Cognitive Aging


This Phase I study will investigate the role of the nicotinic system in the brain, a subset of the cholinergic system, on memory and thinking and healthy aging by using stimulants and blockers to examine brain activation patterns.

Minimum Age Maximum Age Gender Healthy Volunteers
18 Years 75 Years All Yes
October 1, 2016
January 31, 2021

  • Cognitvely normal (no dementia or mild cognitive impairment) 
  • IQ score higher than 80

  • Heavy alcohol or coffee use
  • Significant heart disease or coronary artery disease
  • Asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Diabetes, untreated thyroid disease, active peptic ulcer, hyperthyroidism, or pyloric stenosis (narrowing of the lower part of the stomach)
  • Narrow-angle glaucoma
  • Epilepsy
  • Current psychiatric disorder, including major depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety disorders
  • Prohibited medications: barbiturates, insulin, oral hypoglycemics, antidepressants, rifampin (Rifadin, Rimactane), carbamazepine (Carbatrol, Epitol, Equetro, Tegretol, Teril), and other drugs that act on the central nervous system or have cholinergic properties

Over three study days, participants will be randomly assigned to receive either a nicotine patch, oral mecamylamine, or a placebo and perform a working memory task during a magentic resonance imaging (MRI) scan. The nicotine patch is a nicotinic stimulator while the drug mecamylamine is a nicotinic blocker. Researchers will measure and compare changes in working memory and brain activation using MRI findings. Information gathered will help in understanding the effects of age-related changes on the nicotinic system and how system dysfunction affects cognition in healthy older adults.

Name City State Zip Status Primary Contact
University of Vermont
Burlington Vermont 05401 Recruiting Sponsored Program Administration

University of Vermont

  • Vanderbilt University Medical Center

Name Role Affiliation
Julie A. Dumas, PhD Principal Investigator University of Vermont

Name Phone Email
Jenna A. Makarewicz 802-847-8248


The Nicotinic System and Cognitive Aging