Why your sense of smell could be a clue to Alzheimer's Disease?

Your sense of smell may give doctors early clues as to whether you’ll deal with Alzheimer’s disease. Since there’s no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, researchers are focused on ways to identify early signs and create treatments before dementia sets in.

Dr. Shannon Risacher is one of those researchers whose study focused on how people’s sense of smell could be connected to Alzheimer's disease.

Risacher and a team of researchers gave a “scratch and sniff” test of 40 different smells to a group of 34 people.

“What we wanted to do, was look at whether or not the performance on this test was linked to certain proteins known to be involved in the Alzheimer’s disease in the brain,” said Risacher.

The findings suggest there’s an association between a low score on the “scratch and sniff” test and the protein that accumulates in regions of the brain where Alzheimer’s tends to show up. The study also found that the sense of smell can be associated with atrophy in certain areas of the brain.

“The study is showing that you could have an early test that might alert somebody to further investigate it.” Fletcher said. “But right now, it’s (the study’s findings) too early to say that anything is definitive.”

“Currently the way we visualize the amyloid and tau (two proteins in the brain connected with Alzheimer’s) is through PET scans and they’re (the scans) perfectly safe but they are expensive and relatively invasive,” said Risacher.

“I think the smell test can be used on its own or maybe in collection with other types of tests as a screening tool that people can get every year.” Risacher said. This would be on par with an annual physical.

The study was published late last year in the journal Alzheimer's and Dementia: Diagnosis, Assessment and Disease Monitoring.


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