The olfactory bulbectomy disease model: A Re-evaluation

Physiol Behav. 2021 Oct 15;240:113548. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2021.113548. Epub 2021 Aug 6.


The olfactory bulbectomized rodent has long been one of the preferred animal models of depression and certain other neuropsychiatric diseases. In fact, it is considered unparalleled, by some, in the search for antidepressant medication and the literature generated about the model is prodigious. We have revisited the "syndrome" of behavioral sequela following bulbectomy choosing ecologically valid tests likely to be underpinned with evolutionarily preserved neural circuits. Our test battery included measurements of activity, intermale aggression, pleasure seeking, stress/fear and non-spatial memory. The emphasis was on the timetable of syndrome emergence, since this has been understudied and bears on the widely held belief that non-olfactory effects dominate. Our results largely agree with previous reports describing the behavioral syndrome in that we document bulbectomized mice as hyperactive, non-aggressive and fearless. However, we did not find deficits in memory as have frequently been reported in previous studies. Notably, our results revealed that some syndrome behaviors-including the hallmark of hyperactivity-appear immediately or soon after surgery. This rapid appearance casts doubt on the widely held view that compensatory reorganization of limbic and prefrontal cortical areas following bulbectomy underlies the syndrome. Rather, hyperactivity, non-aggressiveness, reduced fear and diminished sucrose preference in the olfactory bulbectomized mouse find ready explanations in the loss of smell that is the immediate and irreversible outcome of bulbectomy. Finally, after a critical consideration of the literature and our results, we conclude that the olfactory bulbectomy model lacks the validity and simplicity previously credited to it. Indeed, we deem this lesion unsuitable as a model of most neuropsychiatric diseases since its effects are at least as complex and misunderstood as the disorders it is purported to model.

Keywords: Aggression; Anhedonia; Animal models; Anosmia; Anxiety; Bulbectomy; Depression; Validity; Wheel-running.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aggression
  • Animals
  • Antidepressive Agents*
  • Mice
  • Olfactory Bulb* / surgery
  • Smell


  • Antidepressive Agents