A new low-cost and non-invasive test is in the works to detect Alzheimer's, and it involves smelling some delicious peanut butter!
Developers of the peanut butter test from the University of Florida have reported that "The ability to smell is associated with the first cranial nerve [which] is so often one of the first things to be affected in cognitive decline."
And, with Alzheimer's patients, the left nostril is impaired more significantly when compared to the right nostril.
Thus, an experiment was conducted by the researchers wherein one nostril was capped while the patient's ability to smell a tablespoon of peanut butter was measured at a distance. Alzheimer's patients would register an impairment of the left nostril by up to 10 centimeters versus that of the right nostril, so that the left nostril had less range of scent detection. Neither control patients nor those with other types of cognitive impairment (e.g. dementia) showed such results, thus making the finding specific to Alzheimer's patients.
The mechanism for the sense of smell incorporates two distinct senses-----the olfactory sense of smell and the trigeminal sense (which is like a stinging sense). Peanut butter was selected as the test odor because it does not trigger the trigeminal element. That peanut butter only stimulates the olfactory sense makes it ideal to link the results specifically to Alzheimer's activity in the brain.
As such, the discovery by the University of Florida team is anticipated to be an inexpensive early warning test for those with Alzheimer's, since the illness is at present difficult to detect with current methodologies. Peanut butter makes it easier.