FMRI brain activation in response to odors is reduced in primary olfactory areas of elderly subjects

Brain Res. 2003 Oct 3;986(1-2):39-53. doi: 10.1016/s0006-8993(03)03168-8.


Olfactory function is affected by aging and deficits often result in decreasing quality of life, health and safety. The present study investigated the cortical substrate of olfactory deficits related to aging with functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), with a retronasal olfactory stimulation protocol using flavored aqueous solutions presented to the mouth. Activation was found in young subjects in the piriform/amygdalar region and in the orbitofrontal cortex and in other areas previously found activated in neuroimaging studies using odorized air, including insula and cerebellum. Activation was seen in similar areas in old subjects but the degree of activation was significantly lower in regions receiving primary olfactory projections (piriform cortex, entorhinal cortex, and amygdala). This result supports the hypothesis of dysfunction and/or degeneration in areas critical to olfactory processing as a major cause of olfactory deficits in the older population.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Amygdala / anatomy & histology
  • Amygdala / physiology
  • Brain Mapping
  • Entorhinal Cortex / anatomy & histology
  • Entorhinal Cortex / physiology
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality / physiology
  • Humans
  • Limbic System / anatomy & histology
  • Limbic System / physiology*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Olfactory Pathways / anatomy & histology
  • Olfactory Pathways / physiology*
  • Smell / physiology*