Odor identification and self-reported olfactory functioning in patients with subtypes of mild cognitive impairment

Johann Lehrner, Gisela Pusswald, Andreas Gleiss, Eduard Auff, Peter Dal-Bianco
Clinical Neuropsychologist 2009, 23 (5): 818-30
Olfactory dysfunction is a very early symptom of Alzheimer's disease (AD), and olfactory dysfunction has also been found in mild cognitive impairment (MCI). The goal of the present study was to compare odor identification ability and self-reported olfactory functioning in patients with different types of MCI. We included 104 elderly participants classified into two groups: patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and elderly controls (EC). Based on their performance in neuropsychological testing the study population was divided into four groups of participants based on cognitive features: amnestic MCI single domain (11), amnestic MCI multiple domain (19), non-amnestic MCI single domain (21) and non-amnestic MCI multiple domain (13), respectively. The MCI patients were compared to 40 elderly controls (EC) controls with no cognitive deficit. Comparison for odor identification revealed a significant difference between amnestic MCI multiple domain patients and the EC group. No other group comparison was significant. Statistical analyses for self-reported olfactory functioning revealed no significant group differences between any subgroup of MCI patients and the control group. Correlational analyses indicated that odor identification ability was related to cognition whereas no relationship was found for self-reported olfactory functioning. The present study showed that amnestic MCI patients with additional deficits in other cognitive domains have a specific odor identification impairment. Together with cognitive testing, olfactory testing may more accurately help predict whether or not a patient with MCI will convert to AD in the near future.

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