Olfactory bulb volume predicts therapeutic outcome in major depression disorder

Brain Imaging Behav. 2016 Jun;10(2):367-72. doi: 10.1007/s11682-015-9400-x.


The volume of the olfactory bulb (OB) is strongly reduced in patients with major depressive disorder (MDD) and this group exhibits markedly decreased olfactory function. It has been suggested that olfactory input is important for maintaining balance in limbic neurocircuits. The aim of our study was to investigate whether reduced OB volume is associated with response to therapy in MDD. Twenty-four inpatients (all women, age 21-49 years, mean 38 ± 10 years SD) with MDD and 36 healthy controls (all women, age 20-52 years, mean 36 ± 10 years SD) underwent structural MRI. OB volume was compared between responders (N = 13) and non-responders (N = 11) to psychotherapy. Retest of OB volume was performed about 6 months after the end of therapy in nine of the patients. Therapy responders exhibited no significant difference in OB volume compared to healthy controls. However, average OB volume of non-responders was 23 % smaller compared to responders (p = .0011). Furthermore, OB volume was correlated with the change of depression severity (r = .46, p = .024). Volume of the OB did not change in the course of therapy. OB volume may be a biological vulnerability factor for the occurrence and/or maintenance of depression, at least in women.

Keywords: Depression; Olfaction; Olfactory bulb; Therapy outcome.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biomarkers
  • Depression / physiopathology
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Forecasting
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Middle Aged
  • Olfaction Disorders / physiopathology
  • Olfactory Bulb / anatomy & histology*
  • Olfactory Bulb / physiopathology*
  • Organ Size / physiology
  • Prefrontal Cortex
  • Smell / genetics
  • Smell / physiology*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Biomarkers