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More Reliable Smell Test Possible for Parkinson and Alzheimer Disease

October 11, 2017


Results of clinical trials conducted at The Rockefeller University Hospital have been published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, describe new smell tests that can detect smell loss more reliably than conventional options (published online October 10, 2017. doi:10.1073/pnas.1711415114).

A handful of smell tests exist that can be used to help diagnose some conditions in people, but, in general, individuals affected by loss of smell and medical professionals are prone to overlook the implications of a lack of smell. One of the issues with the current smell tests available is that they depend upon a patient’s ability to detect and identify single types of odor molecules, yet odor-detection abilities can vary greatly between people.
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Leslie B Vosshall, PhD, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Rockefeller University (New York, NY), and colleagues aimed to remove potential biases by using “white smells,” smells made my mixing many odors together to produce an unfamiliar smell. They asked trial participants to see if they could distinguish white smells with overlapping ingredients and to detect white smells at increasingly lower concentrations.

Findings showed that these new tests could detect smell loss more reliably in participants. Authors said, “The goal is to use changes in the sense of smell, along with other biomarkers, to identify underlying causes of these neurological disorders very early, and so potentially improve treatment.”—Amanda Del Signore


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