Olfactory dysfunction is found in early Parkinson's disease (PD) and in asymptomatic relatives of PD patients. Incidental Lewy bodies (ILB), the presence of Lewy bodies in the brains of deceased individuals without a history of PD or dementia during life, are thought to represent a presymptomatic stage of PD. If olfactory dysfunction were associated with the presence of ILB, this would suggest that olfactory deficits may precede clinical PD. The purpose of this study was to determine the association of olfactory dysfunction during late life with ILB in the substantia nigra or locus ceruleus. Olfaction was assessed during the 1991-1994 and 1994-1996 examinations of elderly Japanese-American men participating in the longitudinal Honolulu-Asia Aging Study. Among those who later died and underwent a standardized postmortem examination, brains were examined for Lewy bodies in the substantia nigra and the locus ceruleus with hematoxylin and eosin stain. Lewy bodies in the brains of individuals without clinical PD or dementia were classified as ILB. There were 164 autopsied men without clinical PD or dementia who had olfaction testing during one of the examinations. Seventeen had ILB. The age-adjusted percent of brains with ILB increased from 1.8% in the highest tertile of odor identification to 11.9% in the mid-tertile to 17.4% in the lowest tertile (P = 0.019 in test for trend). Age-adjusted relative odds of ILB for the lowest versus the highest tertile was 11.0 (P = 0.02). Olfactory dysfunction is associated with ILB. If incidental Lewy bodies represent presymptomatic stage of PD, olfactory testing may be a useful screening tool to identify those at high risk for developing PD.
Copyright 2006 Movement Disorder Society.