Olfactory functioning in patients with alcohol dependence: impairments in odor judgements.

Research paper by Claudia I CI Rupp, W Wolfgang WW Fleischhacker, Armand A Hausmann, Dolores D Mair, Hartmann H Hinterhuber, Martin M Kurz

Indexed on: 01 Oct '04Published on: 01 Oct '04Published in: Alcohol and alcoholism (Oxford, Oxfordshire)


Prior studies indicate that alcohol-dependent patients have impaired olfactory sensitivity, odor quality discrimination and identification ability. However, olfactory functioning with regard to the immediate, perception driven odor associations is unknown. Therefore, this study assessed olfactory judgements in nonamnesic and nondemented patients with alcohol dependence.Thirty alcohol-dependent patients and 30 healthy control subjects, well matched for gender, age and smoking status, and screened for olfactory sensitivity, were asked to rate intensity, familiarity, edibility and pleasantness of 16 odors using visual rating scales.Compared with controls, patients showed lower scores in odor familiarity and impaired edibility judgements. These impairments were observed bilaterally, were present independently of age, gender, general mental abilities and length of abstinence, and not attributable to smoking or impaired olfactory sensitivity. No differences between groups were found in odor intensity and pleasantness judgements.These results extend prior findings of alcohol-related olfactory deficits, indicating impairments in olfactory processes of odor familiarity and edibility in alcohol-dependent patients. Although the basis of these deficits is still unknown, our finding of a distinct pattern of olfactory functional impairment and sparing (intensity, pleasantness) [corrected] suggests that there is no generalized [corrected] olfactory dysfunction, but [corrected] neural olfactory networks may be affected differently. However, alcoholism appears to be associated with a variety of disturbances in olfactory processing [corrected]