Something as simple as your sense of smell could soon become a key test in helping to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease early.
There has been increasing evidence that a person’s sense of smell decreases sharply in the early stages of the disease.
Now researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have created a simple “sniff test” which appears to be efficient at diagnosing a pre-dementia condition called mild cognitive impairment (MCI).
MCI can then progress over a period of years into Alzheimer’s dementia.
David R. Roalf, PhD, an assistant professor in the department of Psychiatry at Penn said: “There’s the exciting possibility here that a decline in the sense of smell can be used to identify people at risk years before they develop dementia,”
Roalf and his team used an already commercially available test called the Sniffin’ Sticks Odor Identification Test.
They then asked over 700 patients to identify 16 different smells. The patients had already been grouped into three categories: “healthy older adult,” “mild cognitive impairment,” or “Alzheimer’s dementia.”
What they found was this while not wholly useful on its own, when combined with an already existing cognitive test the researchers we able to increase the accuracy of their findings from 75 per cent to 87 per cent.
“These results suggest that a simple odour identification test can be a useful supplementary tool for clinically categorising MCI and Alzheimer’s, and even for identifying people who are at the highest risk of worsening,” Roalf said.
“We’re hoping to shorten the Sniffin’ Sticks test, which normally takes 5 to 8 minutes, down to 3 minutes or so, and validate that shorter test’s usefulness in diagnosing MCI and dementia ― we think that will encourage more neurology clinics to do this type of screening,”
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