Smell Test Could Help Doctors Detect Alzheimer’s Disease

Health researchers have discovered a new way of detecting Alzheimer’s Disease. According to these experts, early detection can start by a patient’s ability to recognize familiar smells.

That’s the finding of Harvard researchers who recently presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference 2014 in Copenhagen, Denmark. The Harvard researchers studied 215 health participants by asking them to recognize familiar smells.

The participants were also given standard tests for Alzheimer’s, like cognitive evaluations and positron emission topography (PET) scans, which monitor for deposits of beta-amyloid plaque in the brain (a clear sign of Alzheimer’s disease).

Researchers found a direct connection between the smell test and the PET scan. In fact, the same participants who struggled to identify familiar smells had higher levels of beta-amyloid plaque in the brain.

The Harvard researchers’ report supports the findings of Columbia University Medical Center researchers who carried out a similar study between 2004 and 2006. Using a smell test, the Columbia researchers examined more than one thousand elderly people who had not shown any signs of Alzheimer’s or dementia. Like the Harvard researchers, they found that those people who scored lower on the smell test were more likely to develop dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Columbia health expert Dr. Davangere Devanand says the smell test could be used as a the first step in detecting Alzheimer’s. “If further large-scale studies reproduce these results, a relative inexpensive test such as odor identification may be able to identify subjects at increased risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease at a very early stage,” Devanand said.


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