The Effect Sense of Smell Has On Your Brain

The Effect Sense of Smell Has On Your Brain

Stopping to smell the roses might be one of the most important health choices you make today.

Research suggests that everyday olfactory experiences (smelling a diverse range of scents) plays a vital role in maintaining cognitive health and overall well-being.

If this idea seems familiar, well that’s because it is. When it comes to health, variety and frequency matters. Most of us are aware of “nutrient diversity” and the importance of eating a varied, nutrient-rich diet with as many different types of fruits and vegetables as you can find. Now it’s time to consider “smell diversity” and the importance of olfactory stimulation. 

Reduced Smell Is Both A Warning Sign and a Risk Factor

Reduced sense of smell, known as olfactory impairment, serves as both a risk factor and an early warning sign for neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. 

Research has consistently shown that individuals experiencing a decline in their sense of smell are more likely to develop these conditions later in life. In fact, studies indicate that up to 90% of individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease also experience olfactory impairment. 

Furthermore, a significant proportion of those who exhibit reduced smell sensitivity eventually progress to develop cognitive decline associated with Alzheimer's or Parkinson's. Therefore, monitoring changes in smell sensitivity can play a crucial role in identifying individuals at risk for cognitive decline and initiating timely interventions for early detection and management of neurodegenerative diseases.

Understanding Cognitive Reserve to Understand Brain Health

Cognitive reserve refers to the brain's ability to maintain normal cognitive function despite the presence of brain pathology or damage. It acts as a protective mechanism, allowing individuals to withstand age-related changes or neurological insults without exhibiting clinical symptoms of cognitive decline, such as memory loss or impairment.

In this video (4:17:36), Dr. Michael Leon explains cognitive reserve like this,

“There’s a fascinating phenomenon called cognitive reserve. Cognitive reserve occurs when people have all the hallmarks in their brain of Alzheimer's disease, all the plaques and tangles. They have the disease but they don’t have the symptoms.” 

This reserve acts as a buffer against cognitive decline, allowing individuals to maintain optimal brain function even in the face of age-related changes or neurodegenerative diseases. If there is anything we want for our brain health, it’s cognitive reserve. So how do we develop it?

Environmental Enrichment and Cognitive Reserve

Environmental enrichment involves creating a diverse and stimulating environment that fosters cognitive reserve. This enrichment can include activities such as engaging in intellectual pursuits, socializing with others, and participating in physical exercise. To gain cognitive reserve through environmental enrichment, individuals should:

Stimulate the Senses

Engage the senses through activities such as listening to music, exploring nature, tasting new foods, and experiencing different scents. Sensory stimulation can help maintain neural connections and support cognitive function.

Engage in Lifelong Learning

Continuously challenge the brain by learning new skills, languages, or hobbies. Activities such as reading, puzzles, and educational courses can help stimulate cognitive function.

Stay Socially Active

Maintain social connections and engage in regular social interactions. Spending time with friends and family, participating in group activities, and joining clubs or organizations can provide cognitive stimulation and emotional support.

Adopt a Healthy Lifestyle

Prioritize physical health by exercising regularly, eating a balanced diet, getting enough sleep, and managing stress. Physical health is closely linked to cognitive function, and adopting healthy habits can support brain health and cognitive reserve.

Embrace Therapeutic Sensory Stimulation

Research suggests that engaging in activities that stimulate the sense of smell can improve cognitive function and contribute to the development of cognitive reserve. This can be as minor as breathing in while cooking or pausing to smell flowers on your daily walk. It can also mean using essential oils, smell training kits, or therapeutic devices such as Memory Air. 

Smell Training and Alzheimer's Prevention

Now that we understand the importance of developing cognitive reserve, let’s dive deep into the therapeutic role smell has on brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s. 

Exciting advancements in Alzheimer's research suggest that smell training and olfactory stimulation could hold promise for disease prevention and management. By regularly exposing the olfactory system to a variety of scents, individuals may strengthen neural pathways associated with memory and cognition, potentially reducing the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. This non-invasive approach to brain health represents a hopeful avenue for future interventions. We wrote more about olfactory protocols in this blog post.

Sense Health is Brain Health

As our understanding of the brain continues to evolve, it's becoming increasingly clear that the sense of smell plays a crucial role in cognitive function and overall brain health. By recognizing the importance of olfactory stimulation and incorporating smell training into daily routines, individuals can take proactive steps to protect their cognitive abilities and potentially mitigate the risk of neurodegenerative diseases. In essence, embracing the power of scent could be a simple yet profound way to safeguard brain health and enhance overall well-being.

The Importance of Testing Your Sense of Smell

Because early detection of Alzheimer's disease and other memory-related disorders hinges on the observation of noticeable symptoms, it’s vital to monitor potential warning signs and symptoms. 

That is why we believe regular testing of your senses, particularly your sense of smell, plays a crucial role in safeguarding your cognitive health.

By proactively monitoring your olfactory function and seeking medical attention if you notice any changes, you empower yourself to take proactive steps in managing potential memory-related issues.

SuperSenses Complete 5 Senses Discovery Kit includes a research-backed 12-Odorant Test and access to the SuperSenses app which allows you to track and measure your sense test results. This means you can test your sense of smell regularly (we suggest quarterly tests) ensuring you detect any potential changes right away.

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