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Neuroscience. 2015 Dec 3;310:589-99. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2015.09.045. Epub 2015 Sep 28.

Effects of chronic peripheral olfactory loss on functional brain networks.

Author information

1
Department of Biomedical Imaging and Image-guided Therapy, Medical University of Vienna, Austria; Department of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, Medical University of Vienna, Austria.
2
Department of Biomedical Imaging and Image-guided Therapy, Medical University of Vienna, Austria.
3
Department of Otorhinolaryngology, Medical University of Vienna, Austria.
4
High-Field MR Center, Department of Biomedical Imaging and Image-guided Therapy, Medical University of Vienna, Austria.
5
Department of Biomedical Imaging and Image-guided Therapy, Medical University of Vienna, Austria; Institute of Psychology, University of Graz, Austria; BioTechMed, Graz, Austria. Electronic address: veronika.schoepf@uni-graz.at.

Abstract

The effects of sensory loss on central processing in various sensory systems have already been described. The olfactory system holds the special ability to be activated by a sensorimotor act, without the presentation of an odor. In this study, we investigated brain changes related to chronic peripheral smell loss. We included 11 anosmic patients (eight female, three male; mean age, 43.5 years) with smell loss after an infection of the upper respiratory tract (mean disease duration, 4.64 years) and 14 healthy controls (seven female, seven male; mean age, 30.1 years) in a functional magnetic resonance imaging experiment with a sniffing paradigm. Data were analyzed using group-independent component analysis and functional connectivity analysis. Our results revealed a spatially intact olfactory network in patients, whereas major aberrations due to peripheral loss were observed in functional connectivity through a variety of distributed brain areas. This is the first study to show the re-organization caused by the lack of peripheral input. The results of this study indicate that anosmic patients hold the ability to activate an olfaction-related functional network through the sensorimotor component of odor-perception (sniffing). The areas involved were not different from those that emerged in healthy controls. However, functional connectivity appears to be different between the two groups, with a decrease in functional connectivity in the brain in patients with chronic peripheral sensory loss. We can further conclude that the loss of the sense of smell may induce far-reaching effects in the whole brain, which lead to compensatory mechanisms from other sensory systems due to the close interconnectivity of the olfactory system with other functional networks.

KEYWORDS:

anosmia; functional connectivity; olfaction; piriform cortex; sniffing

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