Characterizing Olfactory Function in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Children with Sensory Processing Dysfunction
Abnormalities in olfactory function have been identified in a number of neurological and psychiatric disorders, including Parkinson’s disease and schizophrenia. However, little is known about olfactory function in autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The present study aims to assess the olfactory profiles of children with ASD, compared to an age- and sex-matched comparison group of typically developing children and a second clinical control group consisting of non-ASD children with sensory processing dysfunction (SPD). Participants completed a battery of sensory and behavioral assessments including olfactory tasks (Sniffin’ Sticks Threshold Test and self-reported valence ratings for two target odorants (phenylethyl alcohol and vanillin) and the University of Pennsylvania Smell Identification Test), and an autism evaluation (Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule-2). Children with ASD showed intact odor detection with reduced odor identification ability. Poor odor identification was significantly correlated with autism symptom severity. Children with SPD demonstrated reduced odor detection and identification ability. These findings provide evidence for differential patterns of smell processing among ASD and non-ASD neurodevelopmental disorders. Future studies are needed to determine whether the association of impaired olfaction and increased autism symptoms is due to shared etiology.
Open Access Status
Sweigert, J. R., St. John, T., Begay, K. K., Davis, G. E., Munson, J., Shankland, E., Estes, A., Dager, S. R., & Kleinhans, N. M. (2020). Characterizing Olfactory Function in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Children with Sensory Processing Dysfunction. Brain Sciences, 10(6), 362. https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci10060362