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Chem Senses. 2013 Oct;38(8):679-84. doi: 10.1093/chemse/bjt037.

Reduced olfactory bulb volume in adults with a history of childhood maltreatment.

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Department of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, University of Gothenburg, Medicinaregatan 16, 405 30 Gothenburg, Sweden.


The human olfactory bulb (OB) is the first relay station of the olfactory pathway and may have the potential for postnatal neurogenesis in early childhood. In animals, chronic stress affects the OB and olfactory functioning. For humans, it has been shown that major depressive disorder is accompanied by reduced OB volume and reduced olfactory function. However, it is not clear if major stress in childhood development also affects olfactory functioning and OB volume in humans. OB volume was measured and olfactory function was tested in 17 depressive patients with and 10 without a history of severe childhood maltreatment (CM). CM patients exhibited a significantly reduced olfactory threshold and identification ability. The OB volume of the CM patients was significantly reduced to 80% of the non-CM patients. In conclusion, postnatal neurogenesis might be by reduced in CM, which may affect olfactory function of the brain in later life. Alternatively, a reduced OB volume may enhance psychological vulnerability in the presence of adverse childhood conditions although other areas not analyzed in this study may also be involved.


child abuse; childhood maltreatment; depression; olfaction; olfactory bulb; olfactory threshold

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