Can a Smell Test Predict the Onset of Alzheimer's?

© Flickr / SheilaAn elderly woman with advanced Alzheimer’s disease
An elderly woman with advanced Alzheimer’s disease - Sputnik International
A new study reports how low smell test scores correlate with the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, and could act to predict onset, to a certain degree.

The study, funded by the National Institute on Aging and presented at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference in Toronto, shows that a decreased ability to identify odors correlates with dementia and Alzheimer's disease, and likely allows for the prediction of developing cognitive decline.

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The study involved 397 80-year old adults without dementia. Fifty of the participants, some 12.6%, developed dementia four years after undergoing the initial test, and about 20% of participants showed early onset signs of Alzheimer's.

The people who developed the diseases showed low scores in odor identification testing.

"Our research showed that odor identification impairment, and to a lesser degree, entorhinal cortical thickness, were predictors of the transition to dementia," said Seonjoo Lee, assistant professor of clinical biostatistics in psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center. "These findings support odor identification as an early predictor, and suggest that impairment in odor identification may precede thinning in the entorhinal cortex in the early clinical stage of Alzheimer's disease."

Currently, Alzheimer's disease can only be positively identified after it has reached the later stages, after the brain is already significantly damaged. Some 5.4 million Americans are thought to have Alzheimer's disease, according to the Alzheimer's Association.

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