The relationship between the olfactory bulb and precocious puberty: from the nose to the pituitary

J Pediatr Endocrinol Metab. 2019 Sep 25;32(9):1013-1021. doi: 10.1515/jpem-2018-0534.


Background/objective The olfactory bulb (OB) and pubertal development have a close relationship as they share a common ontogenetic origin. The aim of this study was to analyze the potential relationship between precocious puberty (PP) in girls as a sign of early pubertal timing and their OB volume as an indicator of its functional activity. Design In the study group (n = 125), OB volume, pituitary height (PH), body mass index (BMI) and body surface (S) variables were retrospectively investigated in 49 girls included in the PP group and 76 healthy girls constituting the control group. Volumetric and length measurements were performed on a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan by using manual segmentation of slices. Results The mean OB volume (73.41 ± 17.21 mm3) and PH (4.96 ± 1.01 mm) were significantly higher in the PP group (p = 0.001 and p = 0.001, respectively). The mean volume difference between the right and left bulbs (1.52 ± 1.87) was higher in the PP group (p = 0.03). The body surface (1.05 ± 0.16 m2) was larger in the PP group (p = 0.09). There was a high correlation between the OB volume and PH (r125 = 0.716). There was a moderate correlation between the body surface and OB volume (r125 = 654), and a weak correlation between the former (S) and the PH (r125 = 452). Conclusions This study showed that there is a strong correlation between increased OB volume and PH in cases with PP. It indicates that increased OB volume may be a strong clue that olfactory functions play a role in pubertal timing in humans, although it does not show definitive proof of a causal relationship.

Keywords: olfactory bulb volume; pituitary; precocious puberty.

MeSH terms

  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Nose / anatomy & histology*
  • Olfactory Bulb / anatomy & histology*
  • Organ Size
  • Prognosis
  • Puberty, Precocious / pathology*
  • Retrospective Studies