Olfactory function and neurocognitive outcomes in old age: The Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Neurocognitive Study

Priya Palta, Honglei Chen, Jennifer A. Deal, A. Richey Sharrett, Alden Gross, David S Knopman, Michael Griswold, Gerardo Heiss, Thomas H. Mosley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Scopus citations


Introduction: We tested the hypothesis that poor sense of smell is associated with lower cognitive function and higher mild cognitive impairment (MCI) prevalence. Methods: Olfaction, measured by the Sniffin' Sticks test, was categorized as olfactory impairment (OI) (score ≤6) or no OI (score >6). MCI was adjudicated based on review of a neuropsychological examination. Linear regression estimated the mean difference in cognitive factor scores, and log-binomial regression quantified MCI prevalence among participants with versus without OI. Results: Participants with OI had lower mean factor scores (memory: −0.27 standard deviation [SD], 95% confidence interval [CI]: −0.35 to −0.19; language: −0.24 SD, 95% CI: −0.30 to −0.17; executive function/processing speed: −0.09 SD, 95% CI: −0.12 to −0.06; and general cognitive performance: −0.25 SD, 95% CI: −0.30 to −0.20). OI was also associated with MCI (n = 204; prevalence ratio = 1.56, 95% CI: 1.37, 1.78). Discussion: An impaired sense of smell may serve as a readily accessible early marker of neurodegeneration and improve upon the prevailing delayed diagnoses and underascertainment of MCI/dementia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalAlzheimer's and Dementia
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2018



  • Cognitive function
  • Community-based study
  • Mild cognitive impairment
  • Odor identification
  • Olfaction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Health Policy
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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