Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and social workers at UPMC have found that the smell of a familiar aroma can aid in the recollection of certain autobiographical experiences in depressed patients and may even aid in their recovery.

According to the study, smells are more powerful than words at evoking memories of particular occasions. They may even be utilized in a therapeutic context to assist depressed patients in breaking free from negative thought patterns and rewiring their neural pathways, facilitating quicker and more seamless recovery.

Dr. Kymberly Young is a neuroscience researcher who specializes in autobiographical memories. She discovered early in her career that activating the amygdala, the reptile brain responsible for essential attention and focus as well as controlling the ‘fight or flight’ response, aids in memory recall.

She was also aware of the substantial evidence showing that individuals suffering from depression find it difficult to recollect specific autobiographical memories, and that, in healthy individuals, smells can elicit memories that seem vivid and’real,’ probably because they activate the amygdala directly through connections with the olfactory bulb.

“It surprised me that no one had previously considered examining memory recall in depressed individuals using odor cues,” stated Young, the study’s principal author and an associate professor of psychiatry at Pitt.

She therefore made the decision to investigate whether activating the amygdala could improve memory access for sad people. And she chose to take a much more low-tech approach in instead of using pricey and frequently inaccessible brain scanner exams.

In this study, Young gave subjects a set of opaque glass vials containing strong, well-known odors, such as Vicks VapoRub, oranges, and ground coffee.

Young invited participants to sniff the vial before asking them to think back on a particular experience, good or bad.

Young was shocked to learn that depressed people who were exposed to odor cues had better memory recall than those who were exposed to word signals. When it came to recollections, those who were exposed to odor cues were more likely to remember a particular event (like going to a coffee shop last Friday) than more general ones (like having visited coffee shops previously).

Odor-induced memories were also far more vivid, authentic, and engaging. Young noted that her results indicate that participants were more likely to remember good occurrences even though she did not directly ask them to recollect happy memories.

In the interim, Young is thrilled with the progress that has been accomplished and is preparing to begin additional cutting-edge research utilizing a brain scanner to demonstrate that smells can engage the amygdala of depressed people more efficiently than word signals.

“If we improve memory, we can improve problem solving, emotion regulation and other functional problems that depressed individuals often experience,” Young stated.

Topics #Helpful for Depressed People #Scents