Researchers at The Parkinson's Institute in Sunnyvale, Calif., used laboratory animals treated with MPTP, an agent that produces a gradual loss of brain function characteristic of Parkinson's.
Experimental animals receiving chronic administration of nicotine over a period of six months had 25 percent less damage from the MPTP treatment than those not receiving nicotine, according to the study in the Journal of Neurochemistry.
This protective effect may explain the lower incidence of Parkinson's disease among smokers, according to the researchers.
The results also suggest that nicotine may be useful as a potential therapy in the treatment of early-stage Parkinson's patients.
2014: The Year in Music [PHOTOS]