Lower olfactory threshold during the ovulatory phase of the menstrual cycle

Biol Psychol. 2003 Jul;63(3):269-79. doi: 10.1016/s0301-0511(03)00076-0.


We investigated whether olfactory detection threshold is correlated with phase of the menstrual cycle. Three hundred and thirty-two women 13-49 years old were tested once during either the follicular, ovulatory, luteal or menstrual phase, and 15 women 20-43 years old were tested at each of these phases across one complete cycle. In three non-cycling control groups subjects were each tested once; 83 post-menopausal women 47-86 years old, 60 pre-pubertal girls 5-12 years old, and 183 men 17-30 years old. Odor detection thresholds were determined using sniff bottles containing -log9.5 to -log6.0 concentrations of amyl acetate presented in ascending order. Thresholds differed significantly across the cycle and were lowest during the ovulatory and highest during the menstrual phase. Thresholds for all control groups were higher than for the cycling women during the ovulatory phase. The results confirm that olfactory threshold is related to phase of the menstrual cycle and thus possibly to hormonal state.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Ovulation / physiology*
  • Sensory Thresholds
  • Sex Factors
  • Smell / physiology*