Nicotine may help to reduce the symptoms of Alzheimer's, it has been reported.
Researchers from King's College London found the substance may give learning, memory and cognitive performance levels a boost.
However, the scientists said the benefits are small and would not help most people, pointing out the addictive and toxic effects of smoking.
Lead researcher Ian Stolerman, professor in the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College, is reported to have suggested: "It may be possible for medicinal chemists to devise compounds that provide some of the beneficial effects of nicotine while cutting out the toxic effects."
He speculated that the pleasure smokers derive from nicotine may in part be due to the cognitive boost they gain from nicotine.
Last week, the Daily Mail reported a study presented at the British Menopause Society conference found taking hormone replacement therapy during the menopause may reduce the risk of developing dementia later in life.
The research suggested a link between oestrogen levels and memory function.
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