Penn Study Confirms That "Sniff Test" May Be Useful in Diagnosing Early Alzheimer's Disease
Adds to evidence that decline in sense of smell occurs alongside cognitive decline
Tests that measure the sense of smell may soon become common in neurologists’ offices. Scientists have been finding increasing evidence that the sense of smell declines sharply in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, and now a new study from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania confirms that administering a simple “sniff test” can enhance the accuracy of diagnosing this dreaded disease. The sniff test also appears to be useful for diagnosing a pre-dementia condition called mild cognitive impairment (MCI), which often progresses to Alzheimer’s dementia within a few years. Neurologists have been eager to find new ways to identify people who are at high risk of Alzheimer’s dementia but do not yet show any symptoms. There is a widespread consensus that Alzheimer’s medications now under development may not work after dementia has set it. “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,” said principal investigator David R. Roalf, PhD, an assistant professor in the department of psychiatry at Penn. Roalf and his colleagues used a simple, commercially available test known as the Sniffin’ Sticks Odor Identification Test, in which subjects must try to identify 16 different odors. They administered the sniff test, a standard cognitive test (the Montreal Cognitive Assessment), to 728 elderly people.
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