Brain fingerprints of olfaction: a novel structural method for assessing olfactory cortical networks in health and disease

Sci Rep. 2017 Feb 14;7:42534. doi: 10.1038/srep42534.


Olfactory deficits are a common (often prodromal) symptom of neurodegenerative or psychiatric disorders. As such, olfaction could have great potential as an early biomarker of disease, for example using neuroimaging to investigate the breakdown of structural connectivity profile of the primary olfactory networks. We investigated the suitability for this purpose in two existing neuroimaging maps of olfactory networks. We found problems with both existing neuroimaging maps in terms of their structural connectivity to known secondary olfactory networks. Based on these findings, we were able to merge the existing maps to a new template map of olfactory networks with connections to all key secondary olfactory networks. We introduce a new method that combines diffusion tensor imaging with probabilistic tractography and pattern recognition techniques. This method can obtain comprehensive and reliable fingerprints of the structural connectivity underlying the neural processing of olfactory stimuli in normosmic adults. Combining the novel proposed method for structural fingerprinting with the template map of olfactory networks has great potential to be used for future neuroimaging investigations of olfactory function in disease. With time, the proposed method may even come to serve as structural biomarker for early detection of disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology
  • Diffusion Tensor Imaging
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Male
  • Models, Neurological
  • Nerve Net
  • Neural Pathways
  • Olfactory Mucosa / physiology
  • Olfactory Perception / physiology*
  • Young Adult