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    Scientists have found a surprising connection between familiar smells and depression

    Parts of the brain associated with emotions are activated

    A new study from neuroscientists at the University of Pittsburgh suggests that inhaling familiar smells can improve the mood of depressed people. Participants in the experiment recalled specific moments in their lives associated with certain scents. This allowed them to get rid of negative thoughts.


    Neuroscientists at the University of Pittsburgh found that patients who inhaled 12 recognizable aromas had better access to positive memories.

    Participants were immersed in specific memories from their lives as they smelled menthol ointment, coffee, vanilla extract, lavender soap and other household items. The results of the experiment were published in the journal JAMA Network Open.

    Experts note that problems with autobiographical memory are a hallmark of major depressive disorder. This causes those suffering from depression to focus only on negative events or interpret them in a negative light. With the help of odors, these negative cycles, scientists believe, can be intercepted.

    In their study, neuroscientists included 32 people aged 18 to 55 years with major depression. They were given 12 scents to smell in sealed jars along with a written prompt about the scent.

    These included: coconut oil, cumin powder, cloves, red wine, shoe wax, vanilla extract, ketchup and orange essential oil .

    With their eyes closed, the subjects inhaled the aromas of each jar and then shared their memories. Each participant rated how good or bad they felt at the time of the memory. Patients were then asked to identify each aroma.

    On average, approximately 29% of subjects identified the odors correctly. Smells evoked more specific life memories than verbal cues. For example, hearing the word “menthol” was much less impressive than opening a can and smelling it.

    Memories evoked by odors tended to be more emotionally arousing, vivid, and took longer to recall than memories evoked by words.

    The researchers stated, “Memories evoked by odors may be unique compared to other stimuli, such as auditory and visual, and contain emotionality.”

    The olfactory bulb, which is responsible for processing odors, is directly connected to key areas of the brain associated with memory and emotion, such as the amygdala and hippocampus.< /p>

    Unlike other senses, smells can directly affect the emotional part of the brain, which experts say may explain why smells have such a profound effect on our memories and emotions.

    Neuroscientist and study co-author Kimberly Young highlights : “If we improve memory, we can improve problem solving, emotion regulation, and other functional problems that depressed people often face.”

    There are several approaches to treating depression that involve inhaling scents that evoke positive memories. Therapists may include aromatherapy in their routine practice of cognitive behavioral therapy, which teaches depressed people to reframe negative thinking patterns.

    They may also try something called reminiscence therapy, which involves reminiscing and sharing past experiences, which helps sensory stimuli (smells, photographs or music) promote. The idea is that by using positive memories and emotions, reminiscence therapy can improve mood, self-esteem and overall well-being.

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