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Meet the New AROMA in Olfactory Testing

Adaptable Essential Oil Olfactory Test: Comparison of Affordable Rapid Olfaction Measurement Array to Sniffin’ Sticks

On Demand– Best of Scientific Oral Presentation


Jennifer Li

Using essential oils could lead to better, more affordable, and widespread olfactory testing as part of the standard of care for clinical diagnoses in a number of diseases.

Olfactory dysfunction is a hallmark of several diseases including sinonasal disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease—even COVID-19. Despite this, olfactory testing is an underutilized tool in the clinic, according to Jennifer Li, a medical student at the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, Kansas.

“Research investigating effective olfactory testing methods has been ongoing for over two decades now, yet olfactory testing is not part of the standard of care in clinical diagnoses in any of the diseases mentioned above,” said Li. “We believe that this is because of the financial and logistical issues associated with many of these tests.”

It was these limitations that prompted Kevin J. Sykes, PhD, MPH, research assistant professor, and Jennifer A. Villwock, MD, associate professor, both at the University of Kansas Medical Center, to consider the practicality of creating a new olfactory test while investigating olfactory dysfunction in the Alzheimer’s population. Drs. Sykes and Villwock were using a commercially available olfactory test when they observed the patients with Alzheimer’s disease struggling to complete it.

To circumvent this they created the Affordable Rapid Olfactory Measurement Array (AROMA).

“The intention was to create an objective and validated olfactory test that was cheap and easy enough to be used on a large scale,” said Li, who will present AROMA in detail during an on-demand session.

AROMA uses essential oils as an inexpensive alternative scent source. There are many different essential oils, which makes adapting AROMA to be culturally specific possible as well.

“If a scent is unfamiliar in another culture, substituting in a more relevant scent would be relatively easy (with AROMA),” said Li. “Additionally, emerging research suggests that the brain interprets whole odors differently than their component parts. For this reason, we hypothesize that olfactory testing with complex odors like essential oils may be more functionally relevant and may be one of the reasons that AROMA correlates more strongly to subjective olfactory dysfunction and age.”

Plus, AROMA is simple enough to be self-administered at home, she said.

“Ultimately, AROMA may remove barriers to allow for easy and adaptable point-of-care olfactory testing in the clinic,” said Li.