J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 74:1435-1437 doi:10.1136/jnnp.74.10.1435
  • Short report

Olfactory dysfunction in degenerative ataxias

  1. T Connelly,
  2. J M Farmer,
  3. D R Lynch,
  4. R L Doty
  1. Smell and Taste Center, Department of Otorhinolaryngology: Head and Neck Surgery, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr R L Doty
 Smell and Taste Center, 5 Ravdin Pavilion, University of Pennsylvania Medical Center, 3400 Spruce Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA; e-mail:


    Several lines of evidence suggest that the cerebellum may play a role in higher-order olfactory processing. In this study, we administered the University of Pennsylvania Smell Identification Test (UPSIT), a standardised test of olfactory function, to patients with ataxias primarily due to cerebellar pathology (spinocerebellar ataxias and related disorders) and to patients with Friedreich ataxia, an ataxia associated mainly with loss of afferent cerebellar pathways. UPSIT scores were slightly lower in both patient groups than in the control subjects, but no differences were noted between the scores of the Friedreich and the other ataxia patients. Within the Friedreich ataxia group, the smell test scores did not correlate with the number of pathologic GAA repeats (a marker of genetic severity), disease duration, or categorical ambulatory ability. UPSIT scores did not correlate with disease duration, although they correlated marginally with ambulatory status in the patients with cerebellar pathology. This study suggests that olfactory dysfunction may be a subtle clinical component of degenerative ataxias, in concordance with the hypothesis that the cerebellum or its afferents plays some role in central olfactory processing.

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