Differential Olfactory Identification in Children with Autism and Asperger’s Disorder: A Comparative and Longitudinal Study

  • Tamara May
  • Warrick J. Brewer
  • Nicole J. Rinehart
  • Peter G. Enticott
  • Avril V. Brereton
  • Bruce J. Tonge
Original Paper


Key theories of autism implicate orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) compromise, while olfactory identification (OI) deficits are associated with OFC dysfunction. This study aimed to complete a 5-year follow-up of children with high-functioning autism (HFA) who previously lacked the normal age-OI association; and compare unirhinal-OI in children with HFA, Asperger’s disorder (ASP), and controls. While both HFA and controls had improved birhinal-OI at follow-up, reduced OI in some HFA participants suggested OFC deterioration and heterogeneous OFC development. Unirhinal-OI was impaired in HFA but not ASP relative to controls, suggesting orbitofrontal compromise in HFA but integrity in ASP. Differing IQ-OI relationships existed between HFA and ASP. Findings support the hypothesis of separate neurobiological underpinnings in ASP and HFA, specifically differential orbitofrontal functioning.


High-functioning autism Asperger’s disorder Olfactory identification UPSIT 



We would like to provide our thanks to the children and their families who gave up their time to make this work possible. We would also like to thank Nicole Papadopoulos, Dr. Ashwini Nayate, and Samantha Speirs for their assistance with participant recruitment and testing. Associate Professor Brewer is supported by a National Health & Medical Council Career Development Award and the Colonial Foundation. Dr. Enticott is supported by a National Health & Medical Council Training Fellowship.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tamara May
    • 1
  • Warrick J. Brewer
    • 2
  • Nicole J. Rinehart
    • 3
  • Peter G. Enticott
    • 1
  • Avril V. Brereton
    • 1
  • Bruce J. Tonge
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre for Developmental Psychiatry and Psychology, School of Psychology and PsychiatryMonash UniversityClaytonAustralia
  2. 2.ORYGEN Youth Health Research CentreUniversity of MelbourneParkvilleAustralia
  3. 3.Centre for Developmental Psychiatry and Psychology, School of Psychology and PsychiatryMonash UniversityNotting HillAustralia

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