Smell identification function in early-onset Alzheimer's disease and mild cognitive impairment

Little is known about olfactory identification (OI) function in early-onset Alzheimer's disease (EOAD) and early-onset mild cognitive impairment (eoMCI) with age of onset <65 years. We aimed to study OI in EOAD compared with eoMCI and age-matched healthy controls (HC). Nineteen EOAD subjects with mild to moderate dementia, 17 with eoMCI, and 21 HC recruited as a convenience sample from memory services were assessed for cognition, behavioral symptoms, and activities for daily living. The OI was tested using the University of Pennsylvania smell identification test (UPSIT). EOAD participants performed worse compared with eoMCI and HC on cognitive tests and OI (p < 0.001). Although eoMCI had poorer cognitive scores compared to HC, they were similar in their OI function. OI correlated with attention (r = 0.494, p = 0.031), executive functions (r = 0.508, p = 0.026), and praxis (r = 0.455, p = 0.05) within the EOAD group. OI impairment was significantly associated with the diagnosis of EOAD versus eoMCI, but not with eoMCI when compared with HC. OI could potentially be useful in differentiating EOAD from eoMCI. Studies with late-life MCI patients showing OI impairment relative to HC may be attributed to a different disease process. Independent replication in a larger sample is needed to validate these findings.