The Nose Knows: Olfaction's Role in Cognitive Health and Longevity
The sense of smell, or olfaction, might be more than just a way to enjoy your favorite fragrances. It could be a key player in cognitive health and longevity. The ability to identify smells has been suggested as an early indicator of cognitive decline. But how does olfaction play a role throughout various cognitive states and even death?
The research delved into this question using data from the Rush Memory and Aging Project. The olfactory ability of participants was assessed using the Brief Smell Identification Test, while their cognitive states were determined using a three-step neuropsychological diagnostic protocol. The researchers found that higher olfactory scores were associated with a reduced risk of transitioning from unimpaired cognition to mild cognitive impairment (MCI), and from MCI to dementia. Interestingly, higher olfactory scores were also associated with a greater likelihood of transitioning backward from MCI to unimpaired cognition.
These findings suggest that a good sense of smell is associated with a decreased risk of transitioning to impaired cognitive states. However, the association between olfaction and mortality seems to occur primarily through the pathway of neurodegeneration. This means that the sense of smell might be an important factor to consider in the pursuit of cognitive health and longevity.