Wesson DW, Levy E, Nixon RA, Wilson DA.
Olfactory dysfunction correlates with amyloid-beta burden in an Alzheimer's disease mouse model.
J Neurosci. 2010 Jan 13;30(2):505-14.
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From my standpoint, the main news of the Wilson study (no relation) is the finding that the olfactory bulb was the first site of amyloid deposition in the brain. Pathological studies of aged humans have shown central olfactory regions to be early sites of AD pathologic changes, but most attention has focused on olfactory cortical areas, especially entorhinal cortex. The findings, if applicable to humans, reinforce the idea that olfactory dysfunction is a very early sign of the disease which may prove helpful, in combination with other markers, in detecting affected persons before the disease has caused widespread damage to the brain.
Impaired olfaction is also a very early sign of PD, but its pathologic basis has been difficult to establish. The Wattendorf study in a very small group of PD patients and controls found impaired olfaction in PD to be associated with atrophy in central olfactory regions (i.e., piriform cortex and amygdala). Better understanding of the pathological basis of this deficit could substantially help with early detection of PD.
At this point, the implications of these findings are mainly for research, because without disease-altering treatments, the clinical need for early diagnosis is limited. In the meantime, we need more longitudinal and clinical-pathologic research on olfaction in humans.