Olfactory impairment increases as a function of age in persons with Down syndrome.

Neuropathology similar to that found in the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) has consistently been observed in older individuals with Down syndrome (DS) and this neuropathology is particularly prevalent in areas involved in olfaction. The present study investigated the effects of age on the expression of olfactory impairment in Down syndrome to address the hypothesis that older adults with DS show greater deficits in olfactory function compared with younger persons with DS and compared with age and IQ matched control groups. Between group differences showed that persons with DS had significant deficits in olfactory functioning compared to the two control groups. Further, within the DS group, older adults performed more poorly than the young adults or children. Results support the hypothesis that in a group of persons at risk for AD because of DS, olfactory impairment is greater in older individuals, suggesting progressive impairment over time. Deficits in olfactory function may be useful in signaling incipient dementia in DS.