Using your sense of smell to diagnose brain ailments

Your sense of smell is a wonderful thing.  It can trigger long forgotten memories and lets you know when you

Your sense of smell is a wonderful thing.  It can trigger long forgotten memories and lets you know when you are in safe environments due to smell.  This powerful sense is something that scientists want to use to help diagnose disease.

A study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease has confirmed a scientific theory that a “sniff test” is key to early detection of the horrible illness.  That’s not it as they now believe that the very same test can be used to help diagnose a pre-dementia condition.  The condition is called mild cognitive impairment or MCI, and it affects thousands worldwide.

David R. Roalf, PhD, who was the principal investigator on the research told Science Daily, “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”.

The sniff test involves the patient trying to identify 16 different odours. In two separate tests with the same sample group of over 700 over 60s, they were first tested with the standard tests and the detection rate of those suffering from either Alzheimer’s or MCI was 75-percent.  However once the sniff test was added they had an 87-percent detection rate!

Dr Roalf said, “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”.  He then added, “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”.

This rollout of tests should help with early detection as well as arcuate detection without adding unnecessary strain on the patient.


  1. Ruth  

    I definitely agree with this finding – my Mother lost her sense of smell years before she developed Alzheimers…

  2. david anderson  

    I have just gotten over a cold virus that gave me a sore throat, muscle aches and dry sinus with thumping forehead pain. Took a month. My sense of smell and taste has gone as well. Hopefully it will return. Found out about the smell when I put the Vick’s vaporiser on in the bedroom and my wife was complaining of the smell. I couldn’t smell a thing. The big test was when I opened the coffee bean packet and smelt -nothing

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