Olfaction in Parkinson’s disease: methods of assessment and clinical relevance
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Several neurological conditions have been reported to be associated with peripheral or central deficits of olfactory system. In recent years particular emphasis has been placed on the early and severe olfactory impairment in Parkinson’s disease (PD), in which limited neuropathological studies have revealed a marked dopaminergic deficit in the olfactory tubercles. Moreover, indirect evidence suggests that dysfunction of the dopaminergic pathways from mesencephalon to the piriform cortex may play a role in olfactory impairment in PD. A large number of clinical studies have reported that olfactory loss in idiopathic PD is bilateral, present in hemiparkinsonism, unrelated to the stage or clinical subtype of the disease, and independent of antiparkinsonian medication. In addition, major olfactory alterations have been reported in familial PD and dementia with Lewy bodies but not in progressive supranuclear palsy and essential tremor. These findings might stimulate further research targeted to determine the biological substrate of dissimilar olfactory performances in these movement disorders. The present review summarizes standardized procedures for the assessment of olfactory acuity (detection threshold), identification (multiple choice odor naming), discrimination (differentiation between similar/dissimilar odorants), and memory (recognition of a substance previously smelled). Specific suggestions concerning the psychometric and neuropsychological evaluation of PD patients are provided.
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