Olfactory deficit: a potential functional marker across the Alzheimer’s disease continuum

Dongming Liu, Jiaming Lu, Liangpeng Wei, Mei Yao, Huiquan Yang, Pin Lv, Haoyao Wang, Yajing Zhu, Zhengyang Zhu, Xin Zhang, Jiu Chen, Qing X. Yang, Bing Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a prevalent form of dementia that affects an estimated 32 million individuals globally. Identifying early indicators is vital for screening at-risk populations and implementing timely interventions. At present, there is an urgent need for early and sensitive biomarkers to screen individuals at risk of AD. Among all sensory biomarkers, olfaction is currently one of the most promising indicators for AD. Olfactory dysfunction signifies a decline in the ability to detect, identify, or remember odors. Within the spectrum of AD, impairment in olfactory identification precedes detectable cognitive impairments, including mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and even the stage of subjective cognitive decline (SCD), by several years. Olfactory impairment is closely linked to the clinical symptoms and neuropathological biomarkers of AD, accompanied by significant structural and functional abnormalities in the brain. Olfactory behavior examination can subjectively evaluate the abilities of olfactory identification, threshold, and discrimination. Olfactory functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) can provide a relatively objective assessment of olfactory capabilities, with the potential to become a promising tool for exploring the neural mechanisms of olfactory damage in AD. Here, we provide a timely review of recent literature on the characteristics, neuropathology, and examination of olfactory dysfunction in the AD continuum. We focus on the early changes in olfactory indicators detected by behavioral and fMRI assessments and discuss the potential of these techniques in MCI and preclinical AD. Despite the challenges and limitations of existing research, olfactory dysfunction has demonstrated its value in assessing neurodegenerative diseases and may serve as an early indicator of AD in the future.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1309482
JournalFrontiers in Neuroscience
StatePublished - 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Neuroscience

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