Anatomy of the olfactory mucosa

Ignacio Salazar, Pablo Sanchez-Quinteiro, Arthur W. Barrios, Manuel López Amado, José A. Vega

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

23 Scopus citations


The classic notion that humans are microsmatic animals was born from comparative anatomy studies showing the reduction in the size of both the olfactory bulbs and the limbic brain relative to the whole brain. However, the human olfactory system contains a number of neurons comparable to that of most other mammals, and humans have exquisite olfactory abilities. Major advances in molecular and genetic research have resulted in the identification of extremely large gene families that express receptors for sensing odors. Such advances have led to a renaissance of studies focused on both human and nonhuman aspects of olfactory physiology and function. Evidence that olfactory dysfunction is among the earliest signs of a number of neurodegenerative and neuropsychiatric disorders has led to considerable interest in the use of olfactory epithelial biopsies for potentially identifying such disorders. Moreover, the unique features of the olfactory ensheathing cells have made the olfactory mucosa a promising and unexpected source of cells for treating spinal cord injuries and other neural injuries in which cell guidance is critical. The olfactory system of humans and other primates differs in many ways from that of other species. In this chapter we provide an overview of the anatomy of not only the human olfactory mucosa but of mucosae from a range of mammals from which more detailed information is available. Basic information regarding the general organization of the olfactory mucosa, including its receptor cells and the large number of other cell types critical for their maintenance and function, is provided. Cross-species comparisons are made when appropriate. The polemic issue of the human vomeronasal organ in both the adult and fetus is discussed, along with recent findings regarding olfactory subsystems within the nose of a number of mammals (e.g., the septal organ and Grüneberg ganglion).

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbook of Clinical Neurology
PublisherElsevier B.V.
Number of pages19
StatePublished - 2019

Publication series

NameHandbook of Clinical Neurology
ISSN (Print)0072-9752
ISSN (Electronic)2212-4152

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank D. Salazar and N. Vandenberghe for intellectual support and helpful comments and J. Feito for his technical assistance. Our thanks to the editor Prof. R. Doty for his enlightening and constructive comments and suggestions throughout the review process. W.A.B. thanks the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation for an AECID grant. Private financial support is gratefully acknowledged (I.S.).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Elsevier B.V.


  • Ensheathing cells
  • Human anatomy
  • Olfaction
  • Olfactory mucosa
  • Olfactory subsystems


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