Last night at about ten o’clock, I read a review of some introductory research suggesting that the loss of the sense of smell is one of the earliest signs of dementia. Specifically, if the sense of smell is more impaired in the left nostril, it may be an early sign of Alzheimer’s. If the greater impairment is in the right nostril, it may indicate some other form of cognitive impairment.
The research used about a tablespoon of peanut butter with a blind-folded patient who was instructed to indicate when they could smell it. A difference of about ten centimeters (four inches) in the distance between when the peanut butter was detected by the right and left nostrils turned out to be significant.
I dashed into the kitchen and dished up a soup -spoon of peanut butter. It could hardly be called a blind study, since it was self-administered, but it seemed to me I couldn’t smell peanut butter with either or both nostrils, at any distance. I dug around the cupboards for something more strongly scented, but although curry powder made me sneeze, I couldn’t actually say I could smell it. Ditto for the vinegar, orange, and tomato juice.
My scientifically validated conclusion, based on this evidence, is that either a) my allergies are still acting up, b) I’ve never had a good sense of smell, c) peanut butter doesn’t have a smell, or d) I’m in the late stages of cognitive impairment. (Notice how I have cleverly omitted the possibility that I’m in the early stages of Alzheimer’s.)
I have noticed, though, that I have to concentrate harder than I used to when I’m working on cognitive tasks or trying to figure out a problem — like how to make some new gadget work that three-year-olds can figure out in about as many minutes.
I also concluded many years ago that achieving true and honest self-knowledge makes understanding quantum physics look easy.
So if I’m really loosing it, some complete stranger reading this blog will probably know it well before I do.