A brief cognitive screening combined with an olfactory test may rule out future dementia in people with mild cognitive impairment, according to a large new study.

Nearly all elderly study participants who performed well on both tests failed to develop dementia, including Alzheimer’s, during an average follow-up period of four years, reported psychiatrist D. P. Devanand of Columbia University. 

For adults who perform well on both tests, “transition to dementia in the next few years is very unlikely and further investigative evaluation for dementia typically is not needed,” he concluded.

“If we could accurately identify individuals who are unlikely to experience cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease, we would reduce the need for unnecessary diagnostic investigation with PET imaging and lumbar puncture, which can be cumbersome and expensive,” said Devanand.

A decline in the ability to identify scents is linked to dementia and other brain disorders. Smell tests have received attention in recent years as a possible early indicator of dementia. 

Study results were published October 29 in Alzheimer’s & Dementia.