Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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Déjà Smelled

Delaying dementia recognition difficulties with odors
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(+7, -1)
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A known phenomenon is perceiving a smell that brings back an experience that had been forgotten or a memory of a specific person in life. Since one of the stages in the development of dementia (especially Alzheimer's) is failing to recognize family and close friends, perhaps an early olfactory "tagging" of the patient's nearest could delay these symptoms for months or longer. This should ease care and reduce frustration both for the affected and family members.

Upon a diagnosis of dementia, each family member and friend when visiting would bear a specific, unique scent to imprint it in the patient's memory. Later, when even face-recognition is faulty, the odor of a loved one or care person should aid recognition.

FarmerJohn, Aug 14 2002

Overview - with 4 links at bottom http://www.cem.msu....actory/huhchem.html
The smell of burning leaves isn't just the smell of burning leaves. It's the rustle of the wind through half-empty trees, the stretch of the backyard beneath a gray-blue autumn sky, and the muted activity of a quiet October afternoon. It's a thousand other things, too, things that can't be summoned into conscious thought, but are tangibly present nonetheless -- things that, although absorbed unconsciously, are somehow tied together by the wisps of smoke that rose from a pile of burning leaves. [thumbwax, Aug 14 2002, last modified Oct 21 2004]

Loss of smell memory in Alzheimer's http://www.sciencen...rticle_id=218392445
[robinism, Feb 07 2005]


       Is it as simple as that? I found a notebook inside a camera bag which I hadn't opened for a couple of years, and immediately, the smell of the notebook reminded me of being very young and listening to our vinyl record of 'Sleeping Beauty' read by Claire Bloom to the music of Tchaikovsky. I don't have a clue how the smell connects to the record - if I had to place the smell I'd guess it was far more like my dad's woodwork garage, or the enormous cardboard box I had for a Wendy house. So, I wonder whether odour recognition is not simply the usual smell of a person (my mother's perfume = White Linen), but a strong sense of one event which left a lasting impression but which can be recalled by something as tangential as a smell which prevailed at the time; ask a psychologist, I guess. Also, smell is notoriously difficult to 'bottle', and recreate. Some huge amount of money is spent by the chemical industry creating artificial taste/smells for food and cosmetics; it would be a big cost to do this for a number of possible 'trigger' odours throughout a person's life - and I would say that you would have to do this well before the actual dementia diagnosis.
sappho, Aug 14 2002

       Maybe I am alone in having experienced the strong memory of a former girlfriend upon smelling a certain perfume. Mother-infant bonding builds to some degree on familiar fragrances. If the odor "tagging" would function upon early diagnosis, which has become successively earlier, then expensive, re-created scents would not be needed.
FarmerJohn, Aug 14 2002

       I'm not sure that recognising family members through scent would be a more robust means than doing so by sight or sound when in the grip of dementia.
angel, Aug 14 2002

       FarmerJohn: You're not.   

       angel: I always felt smell to have a very strong link to memory. I don't know if that is something that varies from person to person or whether it is a generic human trait.
st3f, Aug 14 2002

       st3f: It's a generic human trait, but stronger in some than others. The olfactory bulbs are very closely coupled to the brain, as much as the visual system is. This is a well known and researched phenomenon.   

       Alzheimer's is not a nice thing, and any idea that seeks to aid the sufferers is well deserving of a croissant.
8th of 7, Aug 14 2002


       // I still to this day can not smell "English Leather" without conjuring up a love lost..... //   

       I would very much like reassurance at this point that you are referring to some sort of personal hygiene product such as a soap, and not the odour of a freshly-oiled riding crop or cat o' nine tails ...... otherwise that anno is deeply worrying ....
8th of 7, Aug 14 2002

       Current research shows that neuron formation continues in the nasal nerve complexes, so it has possibilities. Also, although scent detection declines like everythig else with age, it might be useful if you were partially blind and/or deaf.
pfperry, Aug 14 2002

       [st3f]: I agree, but I suspect that, in dementia, that link will be degraded as much as any other.
angel, Aug 14 2002

       My father went through this a few years ago. After a while he didn't recognize himself in the mirror (thought it was some nosy guy in a window) and probably thought of me as someone friendly. I tried to talk of what I knew of his childhood as he seemed to remember some of that. At one point he was rather urgently trying to tell me something. After about 10 minutes, I heard "white pot" and guessed correctly that he wanted to empty his bladder.
FarmerJohn, Aug 14 2002

       I tend to associate smells with places moreso than people. I'll be walking along and catch a certain odor in the air, and instantly I'm mentally transported somewhere else.
waugsqueke, Aug 14 2002

       deja pong - whatever. morning dew, the perfume - I can smell from 500 yards away and I throw up. smelly emotions can last for 2 decades. croissant Mr John.
po, Aug 14 2002

       No, no, no. It's deja-peeyew.   

       But the idea to use it to combat failing recognition is worthy of a croissant. Just let me pick my own cologne, um-kay?
BigBrother, Aug 14 2002

       For this idea to work, smell memory would have to be kept longer than sight memory. But research done since this idea was posted indicates that smell memory is actually lost early on in Alzheimer's. An early warning test for Alzheimer's uses scratch 'n sniff cards. (see link)
robinism, Feb 07 2005


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