The olfactory system as marker of neurodegeneration in aging, neurological and neuropsychiatric disorders

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Research studies that focus on understanding the onset of neurodegenerative pathology and therapeutic interventions to inhibit its causative factors, have shown a crucial role of olfactory bulb neurons as they transmit and propagate nerve impulses to higher cortical and limbic structures. In rodent models, removal of the olfactory bulb results in pathology of the frontal cortex that shows striking similarity with frontal cortex features of patients diagnosed with neurodegenerative disorders. Widely different approaches involving behavioral symptom analysis, histopathological and molecular alterations, genetic and environmental influences, along with age-related alterations in cellular pathways, indicate a strong correlation of olfactory dysfunction and neurodegeneration. Indeed, declining olfactory acuity and olfactory deficits emerge either as the very first symptoms or as prodromal symptoms of progressing neurodegeneration of classical conditions. Olfactory dysfunction has been associated with most neurodegenerative, neuropsychiatric, and communication disorders. Evidence revealing the dual molecular function of the olfactory receptor neurons at dendritic and axonal ends indicates the significance of olfactory processing pathways that come under environmental pressure right from the onset. Here, we review findings that olfactory bulb neuronal processing serves as a marker of neuropsychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders.

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