Loss of smell linked to post traumatic stress disorder

April 23rd, 2008 - 2:27 pm ICT by admin  

Sydney, April 23 (IANS) The loss of sense of smell could be symptomatic of post-traumatic stress disorder that usually afflicts war veterans, according to a study. The study involved conducting smell tests on 31 Vietnam War veterans afflicted with the disorder or PTSD, recruited from the Austin Health’s Veterans Psychiatry Unit (AHVPU).

“The worse their ability to be able to name a smell, in a test of over 40 ’scratch and sniff’ odours, the harder it is to manage their emotions,” said John Dileo of the University of Melbourne, who conducted the study.

Dileo surmised that the difficulty these Vietnam veterans have in naming a smell might indicate weakness in the brain pathways bearing on emotional processing.

The same areas in brain’s frontal lobe are involved in identifying smells and regulating emotion.

“This is the first study to report olfactory identification ability as a predictor of aggression and impulsivity in war veterans,” said Warrick Brewer of Melbourne University, the research supervisor.

“In a practical way … smell tests could be used as a screening tool by the Australian military, for example, to assess vulnerability,” Dileo said.

“PTSD is often associated with complex associated problems including alcohol abuse, mood disorders and persistent physical health problems making it is an extremely difficult condition to diagnose and treat,” said Malcolm Hopwood of AHVPU.

The study has been published in the April issue of Psychological Medicine.

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