Abstract 29: Olfactory Function and Neurocognitive Outcomes in Old Age: the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Neurocognitive Study (ARIC-NCS)
Introduction: Impairment in the sense of smell is associated with plaques and tangles in the olfactory region of the brain, which connects to the hippocampus where neuropathologic changes related to mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and dementia due to Alzheimer’s disease are first sited. Olfactory impairments may thus be a marker for poor cognitive function and MCI. We assessed olfaction and cognitive function in 6055 White and Black men and women aged 60-99 years.
Methods: Sense of smell was measured in ARIC-NCS participants (2011-2013) by the 12-item Sniffin’ Sticks screening test (score range: 0-12, median: 10). A clinically validated threshold (smell score <6) defined olfactory impairment (OI). A multidimensional neuropsychological assessment (10 tests) ascertained performance in domains of memory, language, executive function/processing speed, and global cognition. For relative comparisons across the tests, raw cognitive test scores were standardized to z scores and averaged to yield domain scores. Following review of neuropsychological assessments, medical history, cerebral magnetic resonance imaging, and physical examinations, MCI was classified by a neurologist and neuropsychologist, and adjudicated by a third reviewer. Multivariable linear regression estimated the mean difference in domain-specific z scores among participants with and without OI. Logistic regression was used to quantify the prevalence odds of MCI in participants with vs. those without OI. Models were adjusted for age, sex, race, education, ARIC study center, hypertension, diabetes, smoking, and ApoE4. Race and sex were explored as effect modifiers.
Results: The participants’ mean age was 76 years; 41% were male and 23% Black. The prevalence of olfactory impairment was 14%. Compared to participants with no OI, those with OI had a statistically significantly lower mean z score across all cognitive domains [memory: Beta= -0.37 (95% confidence interval [CI]: -0.45, -0.30); language: Beta= -0.39 (95% CI: -0.46, -0.33); executive function/processing speed: Beta= -0.24 (95% CI: -0.32, -0.17); global cognition: Beta= -0.34 (95% CI: -0.41, -0.26). Effect modification by race was observed in the domain of language. Blacks with OI had a greater mean difference in language z score compared to Blacks without OI (Beta= -0.57 (95% CI: -0.70, -0.44)). OI was associated with MCI in Whites, but not Blacks: white participants with OI had greater odds of MCI (Odds Ratio [OR] =1.76, 95% CI: 1.40, 2.21). Sex did not modify these associations.
Conclusions: Compared to average cognitive aging (annual rate of decline of 0.04-0.05 standard deviation units/year) relatively large differences in standardized cognitive domain scores are observed between those with and without olfactory impairment among older adults. An impaired sense of smell may serve as a readily accessible early marker of neurodegeneration.
Author Disclosures: P. Palta: None. H. Chen: None. J.A. Deal: None. D. Knopman: None. M. Griswold: None. G. Heiss: None. T.H. Mosley: None.
- © 2017 by American Heart Association, Inc.