Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Icon

Study finds promise in smell training to harness neuroplasticity and improve brain health in older adults

___

An impaired sense of smell can sig­nal cog­ni­tive decline, but ‘smell train­ing’ could help (The Con­ver­sa­tion):

As we age, we often have prob­lems with our abil­i­ty to smell (called olfac­to­ry dys­func­tion). Old­er peo­ple might not be able to iden­ti­fy an odour or dif­fer­en­ti­ate one odour from anoth­er. In some cas­es they might not be able to detect an odour at all.

Odour iden­ti­fi­ca­tion dif­fi­cul­ties are com­mon in peo­ple with neu­rode­gen­er­a­tive dis­eases, includ­ing Alzheimer’s dis­ease … But there is emerg­ing evi­dence that olfac­to­ry or “smell train­ing” can improve abil­i­ty to smell.

Neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty, our brains’ abil­i­ty to change con­tin­u­ous­ly in response to expe­ri­ence, may be key to how smell train­ing works.

Neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty involves the gen­er­a­tion of new con­nec­tions and/or the strength­en­ing of exist­ing con­nec­tions between neu­rons (brain cells), which in turn may lead to changes in think­ing skills or behav­iour. We can see evi­dence of neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty when we prac­tise a skill such as play­ing an instru­ment or learn­ing a new lan­guage.

The olfac­to­ry net­work is con­sid­ered par­tic­u­lar­ly neu­ro­plas­tic. Neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty may there­fore under­lie the pos­i­tive results from smell train­ing, both in terms of improv­ing olfac­to­ry abil­i­ty and boost­ing capac­i­ty for oth­er cog­ni­tive tasks … using the con­sid­er­able neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty of the olfac­to­ry net­work and evi­dence-based cog­ni­tive train­ing tech­niques, both olfac­to­ry and cog­ni­tive deficits may be tar­get­ed, par­tic­u­lar­ly in old­er adults at risk of demen­tia. It seems pos­si­ble we could train our brains through our noses.”

The Study

Effects of olfac­to­ry train­ing: a meta-analy­sis. (Rhi­nol­o­gy Jour­nal)

  • Abstract: The neur­al plas­tic­i­ty of the olfac­to­ry sys­tem offers pos­si­bil­i­ties of treat­ment in terms of stim­u­la­tion of the sense of smell, and dif­fer­ent stud­ies have sug­gest­ed effec­tive­ness of smell train­ing, i.e., dai­ly expo­si­tion to cer­tain odors. To obtain reli­able and pre­cise esti­mates of over­all treat­ment ben­e­fit on the olfac­to­ry func­tion, we meta-ana­lyzed the effects of smell train­ing report­ed in 13 pre­vi­ous stud­ies. We ana­lyzed the smell train­ing effec­tive­ness across three dif­fer­ent olfac­to­ry abil­i­ties, smell iden­ti­fi­ca­tion, dis­crim­i­na­tion and thresh­old for odor detec­tion. We found a sig­nif­i­cant, pos­i­tive effect of olfac­to­ry train­ing for all olfac­to­ry abil­i­ties, with large effects of train­ing on iden­ti­fi­ca­tion, dis­crim­i­na­tion and TDI-score and small-to-mod­er­ate effect in the case of thresh­old for odor detec­tion. Inter­est­ing­ly, the pat­tern of results dif­fered across Snif­fin Sticks sub­tests depend­ing on the ori­gin of par­tic­i­pants smell dis­or­der, and the smell train­ing dura­tion influ­enced its effec­tive­ness in the case of iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and the TDI score. Although the exact mech­a­nism of olfac­to­ry recov­ery fol­low­ing the smell train­ing still requires fur­ther inves­ti­ga­tion, our meta-analy­sis showed that such train­ing should be con­sid­ered an addi­tion or alter­na­tive to exist­ing smell treat­ment meth­ods.

To Learn More:

Leave a Reply...

Loading Facebook Comments ...

Leave a Reply

Categories: Cognitive Neuroscience, Health & Wellness

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Watch All Recordings Now (40+ Speakers, 12+ Hours)

About SharpBrains

As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters and more, SharpBrains is an independent market research firm tracking health and performance applications of brain science.

Follow us and Engage via…

twitter_logo_header
RSS Feed

Search for anything brain-related in our article archives