Why being able to “smell the roses” matters as we age

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(Christopher Bergland/ Psychology Today) — Newly published research on the link between multisensory functions and cognitive decline among older adults suggests that experiencing a loss of smell may be an early indicator of dementia risk. This UCSF study (Brenowitz, Kaup, & Yaffe, 2020) was published on July 12 in Alzheimer’s and Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association.

“The olfactory bulb, which is critical for smell, is affected fairly early on in the course of the disease,” first author Willa Brenowitz said in a news release. “It’s thought that smell may be a preclinical indicator of dementia, while hearing and vision may have more of a role in promoting dementia.” Brenowitz is a professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco and a core faculty member at UCSF’s Center for Population Brain Health.

Before diving into the details of this study, it’s important to note that beyond age-related cognitive decline, there are other reasons that someone may experience a loss of smell. For example, the CDC lists “new loss of taste or smell” as one of the symptoms associated with COVID-19. That said, the UCSF longitudinal study on a dementia-related link between vision, touch, hearing, and olfactory sensory functions was conducted over 10 years (prior to the pandemic). (…)

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