Sci. Aging Knowl. Environ., 8 February 2006
Vol. 2006, Issue 5, p. pe6
[DOI: 10.1126/sageke.2006.5.pe6]


Olfactory Loss in Aging

Nancy E. Rawson

The author is at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA. E-mail: rawson{at}

Key Words: smell • volatiles • olfactory receptor neurons • G protein-coupled receptor • odor signaling • odor processing

Abstract: Olfactory loss is a common age-related complaint that may be caused by changes in the anatomy of the structures required for olfaction (for example, loss of olfactory receptor cells) or in the environment surrounding the receptor cell (for example, altered nasal mucus composition). However, aging, as well as age-related diseases and medications, may also alter the distribution, density, or function of specific receptor proteins, ion channels, or signaling molecules that affect the ability of neural elements throughout the olfactory pathway to signal and process odorant information. Although a great deal has been learned about the prevalence and nature of age-related olfactory loss, we are just beginning to explore avenues to prevent or alleviate this sensory deficit. Some studies suggest that, rather than being a necessary outcome of aging, age-associated factors such as chronic diseases, medications, and dental and sinus problems are the primary culprits in causing olfactory impairment. This idea suggests optimism in that, as we address these other age-related health issues, the prevalence of olfactory loss will lessen as well.

Citation: N. E. Rawson, Olfactory Loss in Aging. Sci. Aging Knowl. Environ. 2006 (5), pe6 (2006).

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