Nicotine in patients with dementia of the Alzheimer type (DAT) produced a significant and marked improvement in discriminative sensitivity and reaction times on a computerised test of attention and information processing. Nicotine also improved the ability of DAT patients to detect a flickering light in a critical flicker fusion test. These results suggest that nicotine may be acting on cortical mechanisms involved in visual perception and attention, and support the hypothesis that acetylcholine transmission modulates vigilance and discrimination. Nicotine may therefore be of some value in treating deficits in attention and information processing in DAT patients.