Smell test may detect brain injury

Doctors and researchers are always looking for faster and more accurate tests for possible brain trauma. The sooner a victim of traumatic brain injury can be diagnosed, the sooner he or she can begin receiving treatment, which may reduce his or her symptoms and the injury’s long-term effects.

A new study suggests a new avenue for detecting whether or not someone has a brain injury: through the nose.

The study, published in the journal Neurology, is based on an experiment conducted on 231 members of the military being treated at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. As part of the testing, the soldiers were evaluated for TBI and had their sense of smell tested.

All of the soldiers who came back with irregular results on the smell test showed abnormalities on their brain scans. This could be because humans identify smells by linking a scent to past memories. It is known that TBI often affects memory function, so it could also have disrupted the soldiers’ ability to identify smells.

Developed further, a smell test for TBI could save victims and medical providers a great deal of time and effort. For troops who suffer brain trauma in a war zone, it could mean not having to fly hundreds of miles over hostile territory to get a brain scan before a diagnosis could be made.

Diagnosing TBI is important, so that the victim can receive the best treatment available. But avoiding brain injury in the first place is better. Negligence, like drunk driving, can cause brain injury to others, which is why Pennsylvania law holds negligent people and businesses responsible for the harm they cause.