Fragrances could help depressed people, new study suggests

Fragrances could help depressed people, new study suggests

Helping someone who suffers from depression is not easy. To do this, a new study highlights the benefits of perfumes, which could in certain cases bring back memories to patients and help them recover. Explanations.

A mental disorder that can sometimes be severe, depression is a pathology that can be difficult to treat. Neuroscience researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, in the United States, were interested in the impact of perfumes on sick people and their power to help them get better.

Testing the amygdala’s engagement in memories

In this study, the scientists based themselves on different everyday smells, in order to submit them to the participants. For this reason, Dr Kymberly Young, lead author of this work, decided to test the amygdala, a particular structure of our brain, of depressed people.

Indeed, in healthy individuals, odors trigger vivid and almost real memories, because they directly engage the amygdala through nerve connections. It’s this same connection that seems faulty in people suffering from depression.

Different perfumes submitted to people suffering from depression

In this study, the experts presented study participants with a series of opaque glass bottles containing powerful, familiar scents such as orange, ground coffee, shoe polish or even Vicks Vaporub, a balm. smelling of camphor and eucalyptus, which is used for colds.

After asking the participants to smell the bottle, Dr. Young asked them what memories, positive or negative, came to mind.

A link between smells, memory and emotion regulation

The scientists were surprised to find that memories were stronger in depressed people who were exposed to the smells than those who were asked, simply by words, to remember specific facts. The smell of coffee, for example, allowed participants to remember that they had been in a café during a particular event.

In depression, researchers believe that perfumes could help patients get out of their cycle of negative thoughts and ultimately heal. “If we improve memory, we can improve problem solving, emotion regulation, and other functional problems that depressed individuals often experience” explains Dr. Young, who plans to work further on this first avenue by subjecting the participants to a brain scan, in order to confirm these initial findings through imaging.