Journal of Neurology

, Volume 250, Issue 12, pp 1453-1455

First online:

Olfactory dysfunction in cerebellar ataxia and multiple system atrophy

  • Michael AbeleAffiliated withDept. of Neurology, University Bonn Email author 
  • , Alexander RietAffiliated withDept. of Neurology, University Bonn
  • , Thomas HummelAffiliated withSmell and Taste Clinic, Dept. of Otorhinolaryngology, University of Dresden Medical School
  • , Thomas KlockgetherAffiliated withDept. of Neurology, University Bonn
  • , Ullrich WüllnerAffiliated withDept. of Neurology, University Bonn

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access



Olfactory dysfunction has been reported in Parkinson’s (PD) and Alzheimer’s disease (AD).


We studied olfactory function in eight patients with multiple system atrophy of cerebellar type (MSA-C), eleven patients with sporadic cerebellar ataxia of unknown etiology and thirteen controls matched for age and gender. Subjects received tests for n-butanol odor thresholds, odor identification, and odor discrimination.


Olfactory thresholds were abnormally high in 16% of the patients. Odor discrimination and odor identification were impaired in 44 % and 74% of the patients, respectively. There was no significant difference in olfactory function between patients with sporadic ataxia of unknown etiology and MSA-C patients.


The present data suggest that olfactory dysfunction is common to various neurodegenerative disorders and not specifically restricted to PD or AD. Cerebellar dysfunction affected suprathreshold olfactory function more severely than odor thresholds. Thus cerebellar lesions may affect the processing of odor-related information to a higher degree than the transport of odorants to the receptor through sniffing.

Key words

sporadic cerebellar ataxia multiple system atrophy olfactory dysfunction