Relation of the volume of the olfactory bulb to psychophysical measures of olfactory function

Eur Arch Otorhinolaryngol. 2016 Jan;273(1):1-7. doi: 10.1007/s00405-014-3325-7. Epub 2014 Oct 12.


The aim of this review is to investigate whether changes in olfactory bulb volume relate to changes in specific olfactory functions. We studied currently available peer-reviewed articles on the volume of the human olfactory bulb that also included a psychophysical measure of olfactory function. In the present review, we observed a very clear and consistent correlation between general olfactory function and olfactory bulb (OB) volume. We were not able to find a clear relationship between a specific smell component and OB volume, even when analyzing pathologic conditions separately. In some cases, changes were observed for different subtests, but these changes did not significantly correlate with OB volume or had only a borderline correlation. In other cases, we found contradictory data. Several factors may contribute to the difficulties in finding correlations with the different components of smell: (1) the OB volume may be influenced by information from olfactory receptor neurons (bottom-up effect), information from central nervous system (top-down effect) and by direct damage; (2) most pathologic conditions affect more than one area of the olfactory pathway; (3) small sample sizes of hyposmic subjects were used. We believe that it is necessary to do further studies with larger numbers of subjects to answer the currently investigated question.

Keywords: MRI; Odor discrimination; Odor identification; Odor threshold; Olfactory bulb; Smell.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cerebral Cortex / injuries
  • Humans
  • Olfaction Disorders / etiology
  • Olfactory Bulb / anatomy & histology*
  • Sensory Thresholds / physiology
  • Smell / physiology*