Odor perception in patients with mood disorders

J Affect Disord. 2006 Feb;90(2-3):187-91. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2005.11.012. Epub 2005 Dec 27.


Background: Olfaction has obvious correlates with emotional processes but little is known about the several aspects of olfaction in psychiatric disorders characterized by mood disturbance. This research aims at pointing out the specificities of olfactory perception in patients in order to identify the specific cerebral impairments involved in these disorders.

Methods: Olfactory sensitivity, detection, identification, self-evaluation of intensity and pleasantness have been recorded in a control group of healthy subjects (N = 58) and in three sample populations admitted to a Psychiatry Department: depressive patients (N = 49), anorectic patients (N = 17), and patients suffering from addiction to alcohol or drugs (N = 21).

Results: Depressive patients have a poor sensitivity, poor detection abilities but over-evaluate the pleasantness of odors. Anorectic patients have a high sensitivity, over-evaluate the intensities of the odors but under-evaluate their pleasantness. Alcoholic/drug addicted patients showed impairments in identification.

Limitation: This study does not identify inter-individual differences in olfactory perception.

Conclusion: The psychiatric diseases, here at hand although every one of them may be characterized by depressive components, show diverging impairments in olfactory perception. When variations in sensitivity are usually attributed to peripheral cues, impairments in emotional and cognitive aspects of olfaction are typically related to specific brain structures and processes which could be particularly involved in these diseases.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Affect / physiology
  • Aged
  • Alcoholism / diagnosis
  • Alcoholism / physiopathology
  • Alcoholism / psychology
  • Anorexia Nervosa / diagnosis
  • Anorexia Nervosa / physiopathology
  • Anorexia Nervosa / psychology
  • Depressive Disorder / diagnosis
  • Depressive Disorder / physiopathology
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology*
  • Discrimination, Psychological / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Individuality
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mood Disorders / diagnosis
  • Mood Disorders / physiopathology
  • Mood Disorders / psychology*
  • Olfaction Disorders / diagnosis
  • Olfaction Disorders / physiopathology
  • Olfaction Disorders / psychology*
  • Olfactory Pathways / physiopathology
  • Reference Values
  • Sensory Thresholds / physiology
  • Signal Detection, Psychological / physiology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / diagnosis
  • Substance-Related Disorders / physiopathology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology