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Nicotine's new appeal

Mimicking the addictive compound’s action in the brain could lead to new drugs for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and schizophrenia

First, let’s clear the air: Nicotine invites addiction, and it employs a delivery device that’s been killing people for centuries. But let’s also be honest: Nicotine has some attractive qualities. Smokers use it to calm jitters or perk themselves up. It’s a common (if ill-advised) tool for weight control. Nicotine lowers the risk and eases the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Patients with mental illness have high rates of tobacco use, partly because nicotine helps quiet the mind.

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