By Erin Alessandroni and Janissa Delzo
“I’m going to hand you one of these sticks,” Allison Weiss, a research coordinator at the Penn Memory Center (PMC), told a patient. “What does it smell like: lemon, blueberry, mango, or orange*?”
“It’s hard to tell,” the 82-year-old man with mild cognitive impairment replied.
After wafting the stick back and forth under his nose for about 10 seconds, he answered with uncertainty: “smells like a little orange.”
He went on to sniff 15 more sticks, “getting almost none of the smells right,” Weiss said.
To those with an unimpaired sense of smell, distinguishing among the aforementioned artificial odors is likely an easy task. But for individuals with Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases, impaired olfactory function is common.