Chem Senses. 2023 Feb 17:bjad004. doi: 10.1093/chemse/bjad004. Online ahead of print.
Wolfram syndrome is a rare disease characterized by diabetes, neurodegeneration, loss of vision, and audition. We recently found, in a young sample of participants (mean age 15 yrs), that Wolfram syndrome was associated with impairment in smell identification with normal smell sensitivity and whole-mouth taste function. However, these senses were assessed separately, and it is unknown whether smell-taste interactions are altered in Wolfram syndrome, which was the focus of this study. Participants with Wolfram syndrome (n=36; 18.2 ± 6.8 years) and sex-age equivalent healthy controls (n=34) were assessed with a battery of sensory tests. Using sip-and-spit methods, participants tasted solutions containing gustatory and olfactory stimuli (sucrose with strawberry extract, citric acid with lemon extract, sodium chloride in vegetable broth, and coffee) with and without nose clips, and rated perceived taste and retronasal smell intensities using the general Labeled Magnitude Scale. Participants also completed n-butanol detection thresholds and the University of Pennsylvania Smell Identification Test (UPSIT). Retronasal smell increased taste intensity of sucrose, sodium chloride, and coffee solutions similarly in both groups (P values <0.03). Compared to the control group, participants in the Wolfram group had lower UPSIT scores and reduced smell sensitivity, retronasal intensity, and saltiness (P values <0.03), but rated other taste intensities similarly when wearing the nose clip. Despite impairments in orthonasal smell identification, odor-induced taste enhancement was preserved in participants with Wolfram syndrome who still had some peripheral olfactory function. This finding suggests that odor-induced taste enhancement may be preserved in the presence of reduced olfactory intensity.