266 PTSD UCF Treats Our Soldiers, One Scent at a Time

We recently stumbled across a student article from the University of Central Florida about virtual reality being used to treat post traumatic stress disorder victims.  Nothing that we haven’t seen before, but this time, with an added dimension.  Smell.

The program is operated by the UCF Anxiety Disorders Clinic in the Department of Psychology and called the Trauma Management Therapy Program.  Led by director and clinical psych professor Dr. Deborah Beidel, the program is 17 weeks long and of no charge to vets returning from Afghanistan and Iraq.

The article begins by referencing freshly cut grass and food cooking on the grill.  The smells used in the program (and directly controlled while synced to images and audio) include:

  • weapon fire
  • body odor
  • burning rubber
  • diesel fuel
  • Moroccan spices
  • garbage
  • cordite, a type of gunpowder

Smell is an extremely powerful sense, capable of triggering a memory or an experience immediately.  Think about your childhood, remember the smell of that grass as you played, the smoke coming from your dad’s accidental grill bonfire, you can probably recall by now a time when you might have scraped your knee on that grass, or burnt your tongue on chicken that was too hot.  Overall, more sensory pathways tapped, and overall a more immersive experience.

With direct funding from the Department of Defense, it is the first large-scale clinical research program that incorporates smell into already existing Virtual Reality PTSD treatments (such as USC ICT’s Virtual Iraq).

To read more from the University’s publication, just click here!