Scent reveals Alzheimer’s

The last two weeks I have seen a lot of news covering the area of olfactive research from different perspectives. I really love seeing this development. It seems to me that there have been a few decades of relatively low interest in the sense of smell from the research world. At the same time magazines have published so much superficial fluff on scent and attraction and whatever. But now we can see multi-disciplinary research resulting in both books and articles that are accessible also to a wider audience. And this pushes pop-communication on scent in a better more educated direction. As worlds meet we will share more perspectives and scent will be taken more seriously. This should have an effect also on how we talk about fragrance choices and end that arbitrary mass-market sales-mania for good. Ok, that last part was really wishful thinking… But this is the direction. There is a more interesting path opening up and it is wide enough for many to join.

I wanted to share some facts from an article in today’s Swedish daily newspaper Svenska Dagbladet. Some of you know if you have been reading my posts that I am really interested in learning more about the brain, psychology and the sense of smell and how this could be used to treat for example memory loss or depression. I have a long long way to go here but it is a path I pursue step by step and someday I hope I can do some good things for people with this. So I am grateful when a good article comes my way. More and more people are affected by Alzheimer’s disease which has led to research that focuses on early discovery and treatment. There is currently an international congress on Alzheimer’s in Copenhagen where different methods to diagnose the disease have been a big topic. Amongst other methods, two research groups have worked with scent. When an a person of age starts to loose their ability to detect scents this can be linked to Alzheimer’s effect on the brain cells. Two studies are described, one is done at Harvard where 215 healthy persons without memory defects went through a test with 40 different odors. This was followed up with complex tests and examinations on their brains. The conclusion that was drawn was that the persons that identified less odours also had the most plaque. The parts of the brain that are significant to memory were also thinner. If this method is indeed good enough to be used, it offers a solution that is substantially less expensive than many brain examination methods used today. The researchers stressed that there could be other reasons for the memory loss than Alzheimer. A similar study was conducted at Columbia where 1037 people participated. The 757 persons with lowest odour identification ability also had a more rapid development of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

Now what I am thinking is… if smell can be used at an early stage… and we know that olfactive sensations trigger activity in the brain: can then olfactive therapy be used to slow down the development of dementia? And can it be used when the disease has progressed to somehow break through and stimulate some memory connections? I would like to try some things out….

Photo by Fredrik Persson

Photo by Fredrik Persson


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