POC-MON: A Novel and Cost-Effective Pocket Lemon Sniff Test (PLST) for Early Detection of Major Depressive Disorder

(1) Peninsula Catholic High School, Newport News, Virginia

Effective treatment of depression requires early detection. Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) is a global health and economic concern affecting over 300 million people, according to the World Health Organization. Approximately 21 million Americans experienced at least one depressive episode in 2017. A silent but deadly killer — depressive symptoms are frequently masked and therefore increases suicidal risk, resulting in about 1 million deaths annually, including teenagers. Undiagnosed and untreated depression is commonly linked to public bombings, mass killings, and school shootings in the U.S. Depressive symptoms overlap with olfactory regions, which led to several studies of the correlation between sense of smell and depression. The alarming rise of depression, its related crimes, suicides, and lack of inexpensive, quick tools in detecting early depression — this study aims in demonstrating decreased olfaction and depression correlation. Forty-two subjects (ages 13-83) underwent POC-MON (Pocket Lemon) assessment — an oven-dried lemon peel sniff test, subjected to distance measurement when odor first detected (threshold) and completed Patient Health Questionnaires (PHQ-9). POC-MON and PHQ-9 scores yielded a correlation of 20% and 18% for the right and left nostrils, respectively. Among male (n=17) subjects, the average distance of POC-MON and PHQ-9 scores produced a correlation of 14% and 16% for the right and left nostrils, respectively. Females (n=25) demonstrated a correlation of 28% and 21% for the right and left nostrils, respectively. These results suggest the correlation between olfaction and depression in diagnosing its early-stage, using a quick, inexpensive, and patient-friendly tool — POC-MON.

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