Olfactory adaptation is an important process that allows the individual to adjust to changes in the environment. This process has been proposed to be aberrant in individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). However, few studies have examined olfactory adaptation in children with ASD. We examined olfactory adaptation in children with ASD and typically developing (TD) children using a pulse ejection system, which resolved problems associated with previous laboratory-based olfactory psychophysical studies. Nine children with ASD and nine TD children participated in this study and all participants completed the entire experiment. Using this system, we found that the TD group showed greater adaptation than the ASD group. Our results provide a better understanding of olfactory adaptation in children with ASD.
This is a preview of subscription content,to check access.
Access this article
APA. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders. Arlington: American Psychiatric Publishing.
Ashwin, C., Chapman, E., Howells, J., Rhydderch, D., Walker, I., & Baron-Cohen, S. (2014). Enhanced olfactory sensitivity in autism spectrum conditions. Molecular Autism, 5, 53.
Bennetto, L., Kuschner, E. S., & Hyman, S. L. (2007). Olfaction and taste processing in autism. Biological Psychiatry, 62, 1015–1021.
Brai, E., & Alberi, L. (2018). Olfaction, among the first senses to develop and decline. In Thomas Heinbockel (Ed.), Sensory Nervous System. London: IntechOpen. https://doi.org/10.5772/intechopen.75061.
Brewer, W. J., Brereton, A., & Tonge, B. J. (2008). Dissociation of age and ability on a visual analogue of the University of Pennsylvania smell identification test in children with autism. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 2(4), 612–620.
Colbert, H. A., & Bargmann, C. I. (1995). Odorant-specific adaptation pathways generate olfactory plasticity in C. elegans. Neuron, 14(4), 803–812.
Croy, I., Olgun, S., & Joraschky, P. (2011). Basic emotions elicited by odors and pictures. Emotion, 11, 1331–1335.
Dalton, P. (2000). Psychophysical and behavioral characteristics of olfactory adaptation. Chemical Senses, 25(4), 487–492.
Dalton, P., & Wysocki, C. J. (1996). The nature and duration of adaptation following long-term odor exposure. Perception and Psychophysics, 58(5), 781–792.
Davidson, T. M., & Murphy, C. (1997). Rapid clinical evaluation of anosmia: The alcohol sniff test. Archives of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, 123, 591–594.
Dudova, I., & Hrdlicka, M. (2013). Olfactory functions are not associated with autism severity in autism spectrum disorders. Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, 2013, 1847–1851.
Dudova, I., Vodicka, J., Havlovicova, M., Sedlacek, Z., Urbanek, T., & Hrdlicka, M. (2011). Odor detection threshold, but not odor identification, is impaired in children with autism. European Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 20, 333–340.
Fukasawa, A., Suzuki, R., & Okada, K. (2013). Olfactory measurement system to quantify the ability to smell using pulse ejection. In 2013 IEEE international conference on healthcare informatics (pp. 99–106), Philadelphia, PA.
Giedd, J. N., Blumenthal, J., Jeffries, N. O., Castellanos, F. X., Liu, H., Zijdenbos, A., et al. (1999). Brain development during childhood and adolescence: A longitudinal MRI study. Nature Neuroscience, 2(10), 861–863.
Grill-Spector, K., Henson, R., & Martin, A. (2006). Repetition and the brain: Neural models of stimulus-specific effects. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 10, 14–23.
Gur, R. C., Gunning-Dixon, F. M., Turetsky, B. I., Bilker, W. B., & Gur, R. E. (2002). Brain region and sex differences in age association with brain volume: A quantitative MRI study of healthy young adults. The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 10(1), 72–80.
Hedner, M., Larsson, M., Arnold, N., Zucco, G. M., & Hummel, T. (2010). Cognitive factors in odor detection, odor discrimination, and odor identification tasks. Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology, 32(10), 1062–1067.
Heeger, D. J. (1992). Normalization of cell responses in cat striate cortex. Visual Neuroscience, 9, 181–197.
Hilton, C., Graver, K., & LaVesser, P. (2007). Relationship between social competence and sensory processing in children with high functioning autism spectrum disorders. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 1(2), 164–173.
Hubbard, K. L., Anderson, S. E., Curtin, C., Must, A., & Bandini, L. G. (2014). A comparison of food refusal related to characteristics of food in children with autism spectrum disorder and typically developing children. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 114(12), 1981–1987.
Hummel, T., Sekinger, B., Wolf, S. R., Pauli, E., & Kobal, G. (1997). ‘Sniffin’ sticks’: Olfactory performance assessed by the combined testing of odour identification, odor discrimination and olfactory threshold. Chemical Senses, 22(1), 39–52.
Jacob, T. J., Fraser, C., Wang, L., Walker, V., & O’Connor., S. (2003). Psychophysical evaluation of responses to pleasant and mal-odour stimulation in human subjects; adaptation, dose response and gender differences. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 48, 67–80.
Kadowaki, A., Sato, J., Bannai, Y., & Okada, K. (2007, 28-30 Nov. 2007). Presentation technique of scent to avoid olfactory adaptation. In 17th International Conference on Artificial Reality and Telexistence (ICAT 2007) (pp. 97-104), Esbjerg, Jylland.
Kobayashi, T. N., Sakai, T., Kobayakawa, S., Akiyama, H., Toda, S., & Saito, S. (2008). Effects of cognitive factors on perceived odor intensity in adaptation/habituation processes: From 2 different odor presentation methods. Chemical Senses, 33, 163–171.
Kumazaki, H., Kikuchi, M., Yoshimura, Y., Miyao, M., Okada, K.-I., Mimura, M., et al. (2018a). Relationship between odor identification and visual distractors in children with autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 48(7), 2590–2592.
Kumazaki, H., Muramatsu, T., Fujisawa, T. X., Miyao, M., Matsuura, E., Okada, K.-I., et al. (2016). Assessment of olfactory detection thresholds in children with autism spectrum disorders using a pulse ejection system. Molecular Autism, 7(1), 6.
Kumazaki, H., Muramatsu, T., Kosaka, H., Fujisawa, T. X., Iwata, K., Tomoda, A., et al. (2015). Sex differences in cognitive and symptom profiles in children with high functioning autism spectrum disorders. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 13–14, 1–7.
Kumazaki, H., Okamoto, M., Kanzaki, S., Okada, K.-I., Mimura, M., Minabe, Y., et al. (2018b). Approaches for assessing olfaction in children with autism spectrum disorder. Methods in Molecular Biology, 1820, 221–228.
Kurita, H., Miyake, Y., & Katsuno, K. (1989). Reliability and validity of the childhood autism rating scale-Tokyo version (CARS-TV). Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 19(3), 389–396.
Lane, A. E., Young, R. L., Baker, A. E. Z., & Angley, M. T. (2010). Sensory processing subtypes in autism: Association with adaptive behavior. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 40(1), 112–122.
Lawson, R. P., Aylward, J., Roiser, J. P., & Rees, G. (2018). Adaptation of social and non-social cues to direction in adults with autism spectrum disorder and neurotypical adults with autistic traits. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, 29, 108–116.
Lawson, R. P., Aylward, J., White, S., & Rees, G. (2015). A striking reduction of simple loudness adaptation in autism. Scientific Reports, 5(1), 16157.
Lawson, R. P., Rees, G., & Friston, K. J. (2014). An aberrant precision account of autism. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 8, 302.
Leekam, S. R., Libby, S. J., Wing, L., Gould, J., & Taylor, C. (2002). The diagnostic interview for social and communication disorders: Algorithms for ICD-10 childhood autism and wing and gould autistic spectrum disorder. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 43(3), 327–342.
Leekam, S. R., Nieto, C., Libby, S. J., Wing, L., & Gould, J. (2007). Describing the sensory abnormalities of children and adults with autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 37(5), 894–910.
Malaspina, D., Goetz, R., Keller, A., Messinger, J. W., Bruder, G., Goetz, D., et al. (2012). Olfactory processing, sex effects and heterogeneity in schizophrenia. Schizophrenia Research, 135(1–3), 144–151.
Marieb, E. N. (2005). Human anatomy & physiology lab manual: Fetal pig version. San Francisco: Benjamin-Cummings Pub Co.
May, T., Brewer, W. J., Rinehart, N. J., Enticott, P. G., Brereton, A. V., & Tonge, B. J. (2011). Differential olfactory identification in children with autism and asperger’s disorder: A comparative and longitudinal study. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 41(7), 837–847.
Otsubo, T., Tanaka, K., Koda, R., Shinoda, J., Sano, N., Tanaka, S., et al. (2005). Reliability and validity of Japanese version of the mini-international neuropsychiatric interview. Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, 59(5), 517–526.
Pellicano, E., Jeffery, L., Burr, D., & Rhodes, G. (2007). Abnormal adaptive face-coding mechanisms in children with autism spectrum disorder. Current Biology, 17(17), 1508–1512.
Pellicano, E., Rhodes, G., & Calder, A. J. (2013). Reduced gaze aftereffects are related to difficulties categorising gaze direction in children with autism. Neuropsychologia, 51(8), 1504–1509.
Posar, A., & Visconti, P. (2017). Sensory abnormalities in children with autism spectrum disorder. Jornal de Pediatria, 94(4), 342–350.
Puts, N. A. J., Wodka, E. L., Tommerdahl, M., Mostofsky, S. H., & Edden, R. A. E. (2015). Impaired tactile processing in children with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Neurophysiology, 111(9), 1803–1811.
Schoen, S. A. (2009). Physiological and behavioral differences in sensory processing: A comparison of children with autism spectrum disorder and sensory processing disorder. Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience, 3, 29.
Schopler, E., Reichler, R. J., DeVellis, R. F., & Daly, K. (1980). Toward objective classification of childhood autism: Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS). Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 10(1), 91–103.
Sheehan, D. V., Lecrubier, Y., Sheehan, K. H., Amorim, P., Janavs, J., Weiller, E., et al. (1998). The mini-international neuropsychiatric interview (MINI): The development and validation of a structured diagnostic psychiatric interview for DSM-IV and ICD-10. The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry., 59(Suppl 20), 22–33. (quiz 34-57).
Stevenson, R. J. (2009). An initial evaluation of the functions of human olfaction. Chemical Senses, 35, 3–20.
Störtkuhl, K. F., Hovemann, B. T., & Carlson, J. R. (1999). Olfactory adaptation depends on the Trp Ca2 + channel indrosophila. The Journal of Neuroscience, 19(12), 4839–4846.
Suzuki, Y., Critchley, H. D., Rowe, A., Howlin, P., & Murphy, D. G. (2003). Impaired olfactory identification in Asperger’s syndrome. The Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, 15, 105–107.
Tachimori, H., Osada, H., & Kurita, H. (2003). Childhood autism rating scale—Tokyo version for screening pervasive developmental disorders. Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, 57(1), 113–118.
Tavassoli, T., & Baron-Cohen, S. (2012). Olfactory detection thresholds and adaptation in adults with autism spectrum condition. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 42(6), 905–909.
Tomchek, S. D., & Dunn, W. (2007). Sensory processing in children with and without autism: A comparative study using the short sensory profile. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 61(2), 190–200.
Tommerdahl, M., Tannan, V., Cascio, C. J., Baranek, G. T., & Whitsel, B. L. (2007). Vibrotactile adaptation fails to enhance spatial localization in adults with autism. Brain Research, 1154, 116–123.
Turi, M., Burr, D. C., Igliozzi, R., Aagten-Murphy, D., Muratori, F., & Pellicano, E. (2015). Children with autism spectrum disorder show reduced adaptation to number. Proceedings of the National academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 112(25), 7868–7872.
Wechsler, D. (2003). Wechsler intelligence scale for children (4th ed.). San Antonio: The Psychological Corporation.
Wing, L., Leekam, S. R., Libby, S. J., Gould, J., & Larcombe, M. (2002). The diagnostic interview for social and communication disorders: Background, inter-rater reliability and clinical use. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 43(3), 307–325.
Wuttke, M. S., & Tompkins, L. (2000). Olfactory adaptation in Drosophila larvae. Journal of Neurogenetics, 14, 43–62.
We have no financial relationships to disclose. The authors gratefully acknowledge the contribution of the participants.
All procedures involving human participants were conducted in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
Participants were recruited from Kanazawa University. After a complete explanation of the study, all the participants and their parents provided written, informed consent. All participants and their parents agreed to participate in the study.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
About this article
Cite this article
Kumazaki, H., Muramatsu, T., Miyao, M. et al. Brief Report: Olfactory Adaptation in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. J Autism Dev Disord 49, 3462–3469 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-019-04053-6