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Report: Depression Suppresses Ability to Smell

Posted: August 17, 2010

A report* just published in the journal Neuroscience finds reduced olfactory function and bulb volume in severely depressed people. These findings, say the authors, may be related to depression's known suppression of neurogenesis, or the process by which neurons are created.

*S Negoiasa, I Croya, J Gerberc, S Puschmanna, K Petrowskib, P Joraschkyb and T Hummela, Reduced olfactory bulb volume and olfactory sensitivity in patients with acute major depression. Neuroscience, 169(1) (2010) 415-421

The full abstract below:

The purpose of this study was to assess olfactory function and olfactory bulb volume in patients with acute major depression in comparison to a normal population. Twenty-one patients diagnosed with acute major depressive disorder and 21 healthy controls matched by age, sex and smoking behavior participated in this study. Olfactory function was assessed in a lateralized fashion using measures of odor threshold, discrimination and identification. Olfactory bulb volumes were calculated by manual segmentation of acquired T2-weighted coronal slices according to a standardized protocol. Patients with acute major depressive disorder showed significantly lower olfactory sensitivity and smaller olfactory bulb volumes. Additionally, a significant negative correlation between olfactory bulb volume and depression scores was detected. Their results provide the first evidence, to our knowledge, of decreased olfactory bulb volume in patients with acute major depression. These results might be related to reduced neurogenesis in major depression that could be reflected also at the level of the olfactory bulb.