The relationship between smell identification and neuropsychological domains: Results from a sample of community-dwelling adults suspected of dementia

J Clin Exp Neuropsychol. 2018 Aug;40(6):595-605. doi: 10.1080/13803395.2017.1399985. Epub 2017 Dec 4.


Objective: This study aimed to test the theoretical relationships between smell identification and cognitive tasks based on existing neuroimaging and anatomical findings.

Method: Utilizing data collected from a memory assessment clinic, theory-derived mediation and moderation models were tested. The sample used in this study consisted of 103 (39 male, 64 female) individuals referred for memory assessments. The sample's mean education was 12.4 years (SD = 3.2), and the mean age of the sample was 77.2 years (SD = 6.3).

Results: The University of Pennsylvania Smell Identification Test (UPSIT) was a significant, partial mediator of the relationship between the Repeatable Battery for the Assessment of Neuropsychological Status (RBANS) Immediate and Delayed Memory indexes. Olfactory identification did not mediate list learning and retrieval; however, olfactory identification was a significant partial mediator of the relationship between story encoding and later memory retrieval of the story. Olfactory identification also fully mediated the relationship between a visuospatial construction task and its reconstruction from memory after a short delay. The relationship between processing speed and the olfactory identification was significantly mediated by semantic memory. Finally, the UPSIT moderated the relationship between a measure of premorbid ability, the Wechsler Test of Adult Reading, and current global cognitive functioning.

Conclusions: Our results support theoretical relationships between olfaction and neuropsychological domains. Additionally, our results suggest that the UPSIT may serve as a proxy for cerebral integrity and is likely related to the duration of neurodegeneration.

Keywords: Cognitive impairment; memory; olfaction; processing speed; semantic ability.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Dementia / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Independent Living
  • Learning
  • Male
  • Memory
  • Mental Recall
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests*
  • Olfaction Disorders / psychology
  • Psychomotor Performance
  • Reading
  • Smell / physiology*
  • Wechsler Scales