Leo Sher, M.D.
Our research work, “Patients with seasonal affective disorder have lower odor detection thresholds than control subjects” was published 20 years ago in the December 2002 issue of Archives of General Psychiatry (1).
Behavioral changes in patients with seasonal affective disorder resemble seasonal changes in photoperiodic animals. The olfactory system has a modulatory role in seasonal photoperiodic responses in certain species. Therefore, we hypothesized that olfactory function may differ between patients with seasonal affective disorder and healthy control subjects. More specifically, we hypothesized that the olfactory acuity of patients with seasonal affective disorder would differ from healthy control subjects.
Patients with winter seasonal affective disorder and healthy volunteers were studied once in winter and once in the subsequent summer. Patients and controls had to be physically healthy. We administered a phenyl ethyl alcohol detection threshold test to each side of the nose in a counterbalanced order, with the nostril contralateral to the tested site occluded.
The patients exhibited lower thresholds than did the healthy controls. Detection thresholds were not significantly related to age, gender, side-of-the-nose, season, or their interactions. One or more coexisting physiologic and clinical features of seasonal affective disorder may be associated with a more acute sense of smell.
- Postolache TT, Wehr TA, Doty RL, Sher L, Turner EH, Bartko JJ, Rosenthal NE. Patients with seasonal affective disorder have lower odor detection thresholds than control subjects. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2002 Dec;59(12):1119-22. doi: 10.1001/archpsyc.59.12.1119.