Compounds that activate neuronal nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) may have potential benefit in the treatment of dementia, especially Alzheimer disease (AD). This article summarizes the preclinical pharmacology of ABT-418 [(S)-3-methyl-5-(1-methyl-2-pyrrolidinyl) isoxazole], a novel analog of (-)-nicotine that is being clinically evaluated for the treatment of AD. ABT-418 is a cholinergic channel activator (ChCA) with cognitive enhancement and anxiolytic-like activity possessing a substantially reduced side-effect profile compared to (-)-nicotine [Arneric SP, Sullivan JP, Briggs CA, et al. (S)-3-Methyl-5-(1-Methyl-2-Pyrrolidinyl)Isoxazole (ABT-418): A novel cholinergic ligand with cognition enhancing and anxiolytic activity. I. In vitro activity. J Pharmacol Exp Ther 1994 ;270:310-318; Decker MW, Brioni JD, Sullivan JP, et al. (S)-3-Methyl-5-( 1-Methyl-2-Pyrrolidinyl)Isoxazole (ABT-418): A novel cholinergic ligand with cognition-enhancing and anxiolytic activities: II. In vivo characterization. J Pharmacol Exp Ther 1994a;270:319-328; Decker MW, Curzon P, B rioni JD, Arne ric SP. Effects of ABT-418, a novel cholinergic channel ligand, on place learning in septal-lesioned rats. Eur J Pharmacol 1994;261:217-222; Garvey DS, Wasicak JT, Decker MW, et al. Novel isoxazoles which interact with brain cholinergic channel receptors have intrinsic cognitive enhancing and anxiolytic activities. J Med Chem 1994;37:1055-1059]. ABT-418 may be the first agonist of nAChRs to be developed and evaluated specifically for the treatment of AD. Some brief speculation will be given on the potential benefits that this or other ChCAs may have in treating neurodegenerative disorders as compared with (-)-nicotine, and how this differs from other potential treatment approaches.