March 06, 2007

A Smell Test for Diagnosing Schizophrenia Before the Onset of Symptoms

For many years now we've been hearing about university researchers working on smell tests to help diagnose schizophrenia. This week news comes out of Australia that suggests the effort may be making some progress. Other researchers we've talked to have suggested that while this research is positive, the smell test (as its been done in the past) is too general in its identification of neurological disorders because smell problems can be caused by a number of different brain problems. It may, however, become one more diagnostic tool that helps identify early risk of schizophrenia which would still be a valuable step forward.

The interview with Professor Brewer, Neuropsychiatrist at the University of Melbourne notes:

"we've now started to look at disruption to particular individual odors and the ability of people to actually name individual odors. And the Nobel Prize was won in 2004 by a wonderful group of people who were able to start linking specific genes to the ability to detect and identify individual odors. And what we've got now after we've done hundreds of tests across people with chronic schizophrenia, right through to people with high risk for psychosis is start to look at the individual responses on the scratch and sniff test and we've found in a paper that's yet to be released--we're about to submit it for publication--that there's about 15 odors that people with chronic schizophrenia really have to have problems putting names to and that has genetic implications.

And there's another really weird line to this research that got me into it in the first place, was this identifiable or characteristic smell that comes out of the sweat of patients with schizophrenia and this has been known right back in the 1960s, where psychiatrists used to diagnose people with the disorganized version, the old term for that of schizophrenia, was hebephrenia. And what we've been able to do--we've just released a paper that's come out this month in Psychiatry Research, that reports for the first time the assessment of people with chronic schizophrenia, trying to detect this schizophrenia smell, which we got made up in test tubes over at the chemistry lab at Melbourne University and we found that, as expected, those patients really have difficulty detecting that substance relative to just other normal substances in the environment. And so the next task is for us to go back and understand the genetics behind that problem."

Read the full interview: Smell Test Predicts Mental Illness

Related Reading:
Smell Deficits a possible marker for Schizophrenia susceptibility

Nose Cells Provide Disease Insight

Smell test 'spots schizophrenia'


This smell test is known to many a families long before it is recognised by Science or Psychiatry. As usual it is not as pronounced in all the cases. It is very subtle.
I also say that the factor OF FEELING COLD in the SUMMER and FEELING WARM in WINTER is a sign of misbehaviour of the sences is also known to many families.
May be psychiatry and science will claim credit with some documentation and MRI images soon.

Posted by: captainjohann at March 15, 2007 12:53 AM

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