Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Passing The Smell Test

Anxiety Insights reports that the inability to identify odors may be an indication of severe PTSD.

A world first study of Vietnam veterans' sense of smell has revealed that an inability to identify smells indicates extreme symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Researchers from the University of Melbourne and Austin Health conducting smell tests on 31 male war veterans with PTSD, recruited from Austin Health's Veterans Psychiatry Unit.

"The worse their ability to be able to name a smell, in a smell test of over 40 'scratch and sniff' odors, the harder it is to manage their emotions," said John Dileo of the University's School of Behavioral Science, who conducted the study.

Dileo says that the difficulty Vietnam veterans suffering PTSD have in putting the name to a smell may be indicative of weakness in brain pathways related to emotional processing. He says the same areas in the frontal region of the brain that are involved in identifying smells are also involved in regulating emotion.
Of course a sample size of 31 is not very definitive. It is about the smallest sample size where Gaussian statistics apply. The results are interesting and definitely warrant a larger study.

There is a connection between the amygdala, smell, and memory.

Here is something I wrote a while back on the connection between the amygdala, PTSD, and fear memories. PTSD and the Endocannabinoid System. Here is one about PTSD Pot Alcohol & Substance Abuse.

We are really closing in on PTSD. I think a time will come when we realize the utter stupidity of making war on the self medicating.

Cross Posted at Classical Values


Joseph Sixpack said...

The talk of PTSD that has become so common today amazes me. I spent nearly 3 years in Iraq with 3 different battalions as an Infantry Officer, working with other Infantrymen and other combat arms Soldiers. I have worked with literally thousands and still know hundreds. I know of nobody who exhibits the slightest hint of PTSD, either now or in the past. Furthermore, given how many supposedly suffer from it (I've heard 1 in 4 and 1 in 3), then this would imply that even personnel who never leave their FOB are suffering from PTSD in high numbers. That makes no sense. Then again, I guess it doesn't need to make sense. It's campaign season.

M. Simon said...

The problem is genetic in origin. It is trauma activated.

The genetic susceptibility is about 1 in 5.

Also there may be a time lag of several years or more. In addition there are other things that can mitigate the problem. Morale could be one of them.

In WW 1 it was quite common because you had to "take it". i.e. control was very limited. WW 2 had those kinds of problems as well. Which is why it was called "shell shock" back then.

If I wanted to look for folks with a lot of PTSD I think I'd look at Tangos.

In the USA the best place to look is at abused children. They have to "take it" with no way of responding effectively.

BTW in the Civil War it was called "the soldiers disease" and alcoholism was a symptom.

linearthinker said...

Interesting observation, Joe. You have my respect and appreciation. Today's Army is head and shoulders above my generation's, and I thought we were tolerably good. Same applies across the services...didn't mean to leave anyone out.

I'd like to see the PTSD stats for some selected MOS groups, like EOD, SF, A-10 pilots, and S&R crews, contrasted to the aggregate stats spread indiscriminantly across the services.

And yes, we can toss nuke reactor operators into the high stress group. Shouldn't leave them out, I suppose.

M. Simon said...

If you knew my section head you would not be joking.

About 5 or 6 guys in my section mentaled out of the service due to his fine efforts.

I'd tell you his name but, I don't wish to get into a pissing match with him. He is still kicking and active in ship reunions.