Your sense of smell is more complicated than you might think, Elizabeth Tracey reports


As you age, losses in your ability to smell may predict the development of frailty and increased risk for death, a Johns Hopkins study has shown. Nicholas Rowan, an otolaryngologist at Hopkins and one of the study’s authors, says a database used in this study assesses two different aspects of our sent of smell.

Rowan: The NCHAP database benefits from measuring smell in two different ways. The first is identification. That’s the way we all think of when we think about how the sense of smell works.  If you can smell a rose and tell me that it’s a rose. And the second was we looked at olfactory threshold, so that is what concentration of an odor does someone need to be exposed to in order to detect it. the first question we asked was is there a difference in the relationship with each of these two different types of smell with overall frailty.  :29

Rowan says threshold correlated more with frailty, and notes that parts of the brain involved in each function decline with age, so simply assessing smell may help predict risk. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.