Aging of the rat olfactory bulb: growth and atrophy of constituent layers and changes in size and number of mitral cells

J Comp Neurol. 1977 Feb 1;72(3):345-67. doi: 10.1002/cne.901710304.


A quantitative study of the rat olfactory bulb during aging was carried out by directly measuring or calculating the following parameters at 3, 12, 24, 27, and 30 months: The volume of the glomerular, external plexiform, and internal granular layers, a relative measure of the size of the olfactory nerve layer, the mean volume of mitral cell nuclei and perikarya, a relative measure of the mean volume of the mitral cell dendritic tree as well as the total length and mean cross-sectional area of its constituent dendrites, and number of mitral cells. In addition, measurements of the size and number of mitral cells in the accessory olfactory bulb were performed. Data were analyzed with analysis of variance, multiple range tests for differences means at the various ages, and simple, partial, and multiple product-moment correlations. From 3 to 24 months a linear increase of approximately 50% occurs in all layers of the olfactory bulb. During this time the mean perikaryal volume and dendritic volume of mitral cells increases, also in a linear fashion, approximately 100%. No significant change occurs in the number of mitral cells. From 24 to 30 months a significant decrease occurs in the volume of the layers. Although the total volume of mitral cell dendritic trees decreases slightly from 24 to 27 months, the volume of individual mitral cell dendritic treess, as well as perikaryal and nuclear size, increases sharply during this period, apparently in compensation for a sharp decrease in the number of mitral cells which occurs at this time. From 27 to 30 months no further decrease in mitral cell number occurs, but the size of mitral cell perikarya, and especially dendritic trees, decreases sharply. The coordinated increase in olfactory bulb size from 3 to 24 months appears to be a comtinuation into adult life of earlier postnatal increases. The atrophy from 24 to 30 months appears not to be associated with peripheral rhinitis, since the glomerular and olfactory nerve layers do not show greater atrophy than the other layers, and atrophy also occurs in the accessory olfactory bulb, which is supplied by nerves from the vomeronasal organ, a structure not normally subject to rhinitis.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aging*
  • Animals
  • Cell Count
  • Dendrites / cytology
  • Male
  • Olfactory Bulb / cytology*
  • Olfactory Bulb / physiology
  • Olfactory Nerve / cytology
  • Rats