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Impaired sense of smell may be early indicator of Parkinson's disease
Date:3/20/2008

addition, findings from earlier studies suggest that olfactory impairment begins between two and seven years prior to diagnosis, and estimates from neuroimaging and pathological studies suggest that there is a period of about five to seven years between the onset of nerve loss in an area of the brain affected by PD and diagnosis of the disease.

The pathology of smell impairment in PD is not completely understood, but nerve loss and the formation of Lewy bodies, abnormal clumps of proteins inside nerves cells that are thought to be a marker of PD, are known to take place in the olfactory structures of patients with the disease. The authors note that one study involving brain dissection of deceased patients with neurological disease found that olfactory structures are the earliest brain regions affected by Lewy degeneration, which supports the idea that an impaired sense of smell could be one of the earliest signs of the disease. Olfactory deficits in PD may be caused by impaired nerve cell formation.The olfactory bulb is one of two regions in the brain that receives new neurons throughout life, and dopamine depletion, which occurs in PD, has been shown to impair nerve cell growth in this structure in rodents. It may also be that olfactory deficits are not directly related to the structures themselves, but originate in the amygdala, an area of the brain affected by PD that is known to be involved in smell function. An impaired sense of smell could also be caused by impaired sniffing, which may be another motor symptom of PD.

The authors conclude, Olfactory testing along with screening for other potential early indicators of PD such as constipation or sleep disturbances could provide a simple and relatively economic means of identifying individuals at high risk for developing PD who could participate in trials of medications designed to prevent or slow disease progression. The study is located at Kuakini Medical Center in Honolulu.


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Contact: Amy Molnar
amolnar@wiley.com
Wiley-Blackwell
Source:Eurekalert

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