State and trait olfactory markers of major depression

PLoS One. 2012;7(10):e46938. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0046938. Epub 2012 Oct 3.

Abstract

Nowadays, depression is a major issue in public health. Because of the partial overlap between the brain structures involved in depression, olfaction and emotion, the study of olfactory function could be a relevant way to find specific cognitive markers of depression. This study aims at determining whether the olfactory impairments are state or trait markers of major depressive episode (MDE) through the study of the olfactory parameters involving the central olfactory pathway. In a pilot study, we evaluated prospectively 18 depressed patients during acute episodes of depression and 6 weeks after antidepressant treatment (escitalopram) against 54 healthy volunteers, matched by age, gender and smoking status. We investigated the participants' abilities to identify odors (single odors and in binary mixture), to evaluate and discriminate the odors' intensity, and determine the hedonic valence of odors. The results revealed an "olfactory anhedonia" expressed by decrease of hedonic score for high emotional odorant as potential state marker of MDE. Moreover, these patients experienced an "olfactory negative alliesthesia", during the odor intensity evaluation, and failed to identify correctly two odorants with opposite valences in a binary iso-mixture, which constitute potential trait markers of the disease. This study provides preliminary evidence for olfactory impairments associated with MDE (state marker) that are persistent after the clinical improvement of depressive symptoms (trait marker). These results could be explained by the chronicity of depression and/or by the impact of therapeutic means used (antidepressant treatment). They need to be confirmed particularly the ones obtained in complex olfactory environment which corresponds a more objective daily life situation.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Biomarkers
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / physiopathology*
  • Discrimination, Psychological / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Odorants / analysis
  • Olfactory Perception / physiology*
  • Physical Stimulation
  • Pilot Projects
  • Pleasure / physiology
  • Smell / physiology*
  • Young Adult

Substances

  • Biomarkers

Grants and funding

No external sources of funding.