Assessment of olfactory function

Adv Otorhinolaryngol. 2006:63:84-98. doi: 10.1159/000093752.


Numerous techniques are available for the investigation of chemosensory functions in humans. They include psychophysical measures of chemosensory function, e.g. odor identification, odor discrimination, odor thresholds, odor memory, and retronasal perception of odors. In order to assess changes related to the patients' quality of life or effects of qualitative olfactory dysfunction, questionnaires are being used. Measures relying to a lesser degree on the subjects' cooperation are e.g. chemosensory event-related potentials, odor-induced changes of the EEG, the electroolfactogram, imaging techniques, or measures of respiration. In a clinical context, however, psychophysical techniques are most frequently used, e.g. tests for odor identification, and odor thresholds. Interpretation of results from these measures is frequently supported by the assessment of chemosensory event-related potentials. Other techniques await further standardization before they will become useful in a clinical context.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain / anatomy & histology
  • Brain / physiology
  • Chemoreceptor Cells / physiology
  • Electroencephalography
  • Evoked Potentials / physiology
  • Humans
  • Olfaction Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Olfaction Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Psychophysics / methods
  • Quality of Life / psychology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Trigeminal Nerve / physiology