Odor Tests Could Help Detect Alzheimer’s Disease Before Onset of Symptoms, New Study Suggests

Odor Tests Could Help Detect Alzheimer’s Disease Before Onset of Symptoms, New Study Suggests
Odor identification tests may help track Alzheimer’s disease (AD) in persons at risk even before the onset of symptoms, a new study shows. The study, “Odor identification as a biomarker of preclinical AD in older adults at risk,” appeared in the journal Neurology. Gradual memory loss is observed in several types of dementia, including Alzheimer's. Although smaller memory lapses, such as forgetting familiar words or the location of objects, are observed early in the disease progress, pathological alterations in the brain may have been going on for as long as 20 years. As a result, methodologies to detect Alzheimer's disease prior to memory loss have been the focus of intense research. "Despite all the research in the area, no effective treatment has yet been found for AD," John Breitner, MD, the lead author of the study, said in a press release. Breitner is the director of the Centre for Studies on Prevention of Alzheimer's Disease at the Douglas Mental Health Research Centre of McGill University. "But, if we can delay the onset of symptoms by just five years, we should be able to reduce the prevalence and severity of these symptoms by more than 50%." The study involved 274 healthy, aging (average age of 63 years) participants with a parental or multiple-sibling history of the disease. The researchers analyzed the association of odor identification with pre-symptomatic Alzheimer's disease.  The subjects undertook scratch-and-sniff tests to identify scents, such as the smell of a lemon, bubble gum, or gasoline. Samples of cerebrospinal fluid (which fills
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