Correlation between olfactory function, trigeminal sensitivity, and nasal anatomy in healthy subjects

Abstract

Purpose

Few studies have investigated the correlation between chemosensory function (trigeminal and olfactory) and nasal volume in humans, even though nasal anatomy is crucial for the sense of smell. Aim of this study was to evaluate these correlations in normosmic subjects.

Methods

Two hundred and fifty-six healthy volunteers (age range 19–69 years) participated. Olfactory function was investigated for (the rose-like) phenylethyl alcohol odor threshold and odor identification (OI) using the Sniffin’ Sticks test, while nasal structure was evaluated by acoustic rhinometry (AR); trigeminal sensitivity was assessed in terms of detection “thresholds” for the odorless carbon dioxide (CO2).

Results

There were negative correlations between olfactory sensitivity at threshold level and minimum cross-sectional area (MCSA) in both nostrils. No significant correlations were found between OI and nasal anatomy. Similar to olfactory sensitivity, with regard to the trigeminal stimulus CO2 for the right nostril subjects were the more sensitive the smaller the MCSA.

Conclusions

The current results emphasize the significance of nasal anatomy for trigeminal/olfactory threshold perception. Interestingly, correlations were not found between suprathreshold odor identification and nasal anatomy. Other than odor identification, odor thresholds appear to depend on subtle differences in nasal anatomy.

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Correspondence to Carla Masala.

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This study was approved by the local Ethics Committee and was performed according to the Declaration of Helsinki.

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Masala, C., Käehling, C., Fall, F. et al. Correlation between olfactory function, trigeminal sensitivity, and nasal anatomy in healthy subjects. Eur Arch Otorhinolaryngol 276, 1649–1654 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00405-019-05367-y

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Keywords

  • Acoustic rhinometry
  • Chemosensory system
  • Nasal anatomy
  • Olfactory function
  • Sniffin’ Sticks