What Your Sense of Smell May Tell About Infection

coronavirus attacks the brain

NBA star Rudy Gobert, the first professional basketball player to test positive for the coronavirus, announced on Twitter that he’s experiencing some unusual side effects. On March 22, 2020, Gobert tweeted:

“Just to give you guys an update, loss of smell and taste is definitely one of the symptoms, haven’t been able to smell anything for the last 4 days. Anyone experiencing the same thing?”

In a New York Times report, physicians around the world are confirming that loss of smell (anosmia) and a diminished sense of taste (ageusia) are telltale symptoms of COVID-19.

What this means is that coronavirus attacks the brain.

Recent brain imaging scans reveal acute coronavirus encephalitis, which indicates an infection in the brain. According to the scientist who posted these images on Instagram, the concern that prompted this patient to seek an evaluation? Loss of smell.

The scientist wrote on Instagram:

“COVID-19 is generally associated with mild upper respiratory tract infections, although it has been shown to have neuroinvasive properties. In vivo studies have shown that it may infect neurons and cause encephalitis.”

Encephalitis is inflammation of the brain, which is most commonly caused by a viral infection. In the images in this post, the white parts show the brain’s reaction to an infection.

Sense of Smell and the Brain

The area of the brain involved with smell is called the olfactory cortex. It is situated near the brain’s memory centers. This is part of the reason why the sense of smell is intricately linked to memory. Your senses—smell, taste, sight, touch, and hearing—linked with emotion are the raw ingredients for making memories.  

Outside of COVID-19, loss of smell has been widely recognized as an early symptom of Alzheimer’s disease. Research shows that having trouble smelling peanut butter, lemon, strawberries or natural gas is associated with a higher incidence of significant memory problems. Scoring poorly on the University of Pennsylvania Smell Identification Test strongly predicts those who would be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease later in life.

To date, it remains unclear if the loss of smell some people are experiencing from coronavirus is temporary or if it will be long-lasting. And we don’t yet understand the long-term effects of COVID-19 on brain function. However, the infection’s impact on the brain and the potential for encephalitis are more reasons why we all need to take it very seriously.

If You Experience Loss of Smell or Taste

Physicians are reporting that in some cases, loss of smell or taste is the only symptom of COVID-19 in otherwise seemingly healthy individuals. What’s troublesome is that these people may be spreading the disease to others because they don’t realize they are infected with the virus.

Doctors are advising that if you are experiencing loss of smell—for example, the inability to detect your baby’s dirty diaper or to tell the scent of curry from cinnamon—it is best to self-isolate for 7 days to slow the spread of the virus.

If you’re struggling with anxiety, panic attacks, depression, or other mental health issues, you aren’t alone—45% of Americans say the coronavirus pandemic has impacted their mental health. Just because you’re sheltering at home doesn’t mean you have to wait for the pandemic to be over before seeking help. In fact, during these uncertain times, your mental well-being is more important than ever and waiting to get treatment is likely to make your symptoms worsen over time. 

At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer mental telehealth, remote clinical evaluations, and video therapy for adults, children, and couples, as well as in-clinic brain scanning to help our patients. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834. If all our specialists are busy helping others, you can also schedule a time to talk


  1. Please comment on loss of taste and smell that only lasted for one day ( no cold or flu).

    If zinc helps?

    Mother and grandmother lost taste at 72 and dementia started at 82. How genetic or can a brain warrior beat this potential loss

    Comment by Susan Maass — April 3, 2020 @ 3:57 AM

  2. Zinc does help boost the immune system. I often take a zinc lozenge at night when I feel a little run down. Also, allergies and sinus infections, clogged eustachian tubes can interfere with the sense of smell.

    Comment by Sarah — April 3, 2020 @ 9:12 AM

  3. On March 15th I lost my sense of smell; I was doing laundry on the 14th and could smell the essential oils I was using just fine. When I realized I wasn’t smelling anything, I immediately went to the CDC website to see if it was in any way linked to Covid-19. There was no mention of it at all, so I figured it was my seasonal allergies and treated it as such with a blend of essential oils. My smell returned 7 days later. The very next day, March 23rd, my daughter sent me the NYT article mentioned above and begged me to call the Department of Health hotline to get an appointment for testing. I called and didn’t qualify for testing because I didn’t have any of the other symptoms. I was told to call my physician and let them know just in case. I checked the CDC website again; nothing there about loss of smell connected to Covid-19, even after the article was published. To this day I have no other symptoms of the virus, and now wonder if I have the anti-bodies in my blood that can help someone else. And, the loss of smell is STILL not listed as a symptom of this virus on the CDC website!
    I would love to know if my lifestyle (healthy eating, use body care products with not toxins, make and drink kombucha, sleep at least 7 hours a night, use and diffuse immune building essential oils) is in any way connected to why I didn’t get the full-blown virus. Any insight on this would be welcomed.

    Comment by Denise W — April 5, 2020 @ 6:52 AM

  4. Hello,
    I am absolutely fascinated with your work, thank you so much for all your knowledge you share. I live a healthy life and plan on keeping my mind sharp. Family members have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, I’m sure it was lifestyle and occupation (farming) pesticides!!! If you ever need a person to participate in any studies. Keep me in mind. Thank you again for your hard work!!!!!

    Diane Woodburn
    Box Springs Ga

    Comment by Diane Woodburn — April 9, 2020 @ 2:01 PM

  5. Loss of Smell / Taste = Zinc Deficiency


    I read an interesting article which said that our Smell & Taste Cells have a Half Life of 1 – 2 weeks. So that great Pizza or Curry you had last month is being tasted by new Smell / Taste Cells.

    Our body needs the Zinc to build the new Cells. Our body also prioritizes where it uses the Zinc if it is short – Smell & Taste Cells are low priority.

    And as Dr Amen will well know Zinc is very important is our brains too.

    Looking at Dr Roger Seheult’s Videos 32, 34 & 35 on Youtube about Covid-19, one can see why Zinc is so important. Our body uses Zinc to stop the Corona RNA Virus replicating. Loss of Smell/Taste = Low levels of Zinc = Body cannot stop Coronavirus replicating.

    Best Regards
    Ross Allan
    Napier, New Zealand

    Comment by Ross Allan — April 10, 2020 @ 7:13 PM

  6. Well, isn’t that scary, to think the sense of smell, or the lack of it, could mean an early or even the option of Alzheimer’s. Wow. So I lost my sense of smell at 17, I’m 32 now, I always blamed the cigarettes (used to smoke until I finally completely quit everything 3 months ago). I obviously can’t afford to go get checked yet so I’m just worried. I was trying to research to see what Dr Amen says about chrinic sinus infections/problems cuz that the only way I get sick and it happens pretty often (to have these sinuses bothering me and giving me a headaches). Well I didn’t yet find anything on it. But as scary as this is it has nothing to do with covid so idk what to think now.

    Comment by Bianca — December 7, 2023 @ 8:50 PM

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