Researchers may have found a way to prevent the effects of Alzheimer’s using a person’s sense of smell. It has been determined that a weakened sense of smell is indicative of the early stages of cognitive decline. This early red flag can possibly be used to prevent further damage to a person’s cognitive abilities. Impaired cholinergic function is associated with Alzheimer’s so using a cholinesterase inhibitor, like donepezil, is an effective treatment in improving the cognitive abilities of sufferers, but it is not known if people with only mild cognitive impairment would see improvements from similar treatments. If the disease can be caught early using the smell test and treated using the same treatments as full-blown Alzheimer’s sufferers, it could be used as a preventative and curative treatment. A year long study was done with 37 participants and the results showed that those whose scores were worse on the smell detection test also showed cholinergic deficits, and when deficits improved, so did their results on the smell test. These results also indicated that a person’s receptiveness to treatment with anticholinergics, like donepezil, over the course of the 8 week study showed a likelihood for positive long-term treatment results as well.

Key Points:

  • 1Issues with your ability to register scents can be an early sign of declining cognitive function.
  • 2Alzheimer’s patients can often benefit from treatment with cholinesterase inhibitors to boost cognitive symptoms.
  • 3A recent University of Pennsylvania study showed improvement in nasal performance after treatment with cholinesterase inhibitors.


Having an impaired sense of smell is recognized as one of the early signs of cognitive decline, before the clinical onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

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