Losing Your Sense of Smell: An Untapped Marker of Neurodegeneration

Dementia is now the second leading cause of death and disability internationally. Accurate diagnosis, however, takes 3-4 years after symptom onset due, in part, to the lack of a fast, cheap and non-invasive clinical test. Emerging evidence suggests that a reduction in sense of smell (hyposmia), represents one of the earliest markers of neurodegeneration. Yet, existing olfactory tests are not suitable for large-scale roll out, because of test limitations and associated costs. Our project aims to evaluate a new test of olfactory function, developed by CI Hsieh, in a range of younger-onset dementia syndromes. This project brings together two teams of internationally recognized researchers in the areas of dementia (USYD – CI Piguet, CI Kumfor, CI Manuel Stocker) and olfaction (UNIGE – CI Hsieh, CI Coppin, CI Landis). The proposed project will be conducted at the Brain and Mind Centre Multidisciplinary Initiative and capitalises on USYD’s expertise in neuroscience and mental health. The funding will support testing costs, training in olfactory function assessment, and workshops to be held in both Sydney and Geneva, aimed at communicating these findings to health professionals and researchers in dementia and olfaction. If successful, this test has the potential to become part of a low cost and non-invasive routine neurology/GP examination for dementia, which would represent a major advance in the field of clinical biomarkers. In the longer term, we aim to extend this project to examine change in olfactory dysfunction with disease progression and sensitivity of olfactory dysfunction in detecting neurodegeneration in genetic carriers of dementia.

Participants 

UNIGE:
DrJulien Hsieh, Unité de Rhinologie-Olfactologie, Service d'Oto-Rhino-Laryngologie et de Chirurgie cervico-faciale
Dr Basile Landis, Unité de Rhinologie-Olfactologie, Service d'Oto-Rhino-Laryngologie et de Chirurgie cervico-faciale
Dr Géraldine Coppin, Swiss Center for Affective Sciences and Laboratory for the Study of Emotion Elicitation and Expression

USyD:
Prof Olivier Piguet, School of Psychology and Brain & Mind Centre
Dr Fiona Kumfor, School of Psychology and Brain & Mind Centre
Dr Aurélie Manuel Stocker, School of Psychology and Brain & Mind Centre