Olfactory dysfunction as a predictor of neurodegenerative disease
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Olfactory dysfunction is present in patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or idiopathic Parkinson’s disease and can differentiate each of these disorders from related disorders with similar clinical presentations. The pathologic hallmarks of each disease are present in brain regions involved in processing olfactory input. Both the olfactory functional deficits and the corroborating pathologic lesions are present in asymptomatic subjects with increased risk of developing these diseases. Preclinical detection of neurodegenerative diseases is necessary to control their devastating effects on individuals and societies. We address whether olfactory dysfunction can be used to assess risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s disease in asymptomatic individuals. We argue that further characterization and a deeper understanding of olfactory deficits in these neurodegenerative diseases at the molecular, cellular, and systems levels will augment our acumen for preclinical detection and elucidate pathogenic mechanisms to guide the development of new therapeutic modalities.
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