Of our 5 senses, smell is tied closer to memory than any other. Because of this, specific smells can trigger specific personal memories. Whether those memories are good or not is another story altogether. The Anxiety Disorders Clinic at the University of Central Florida (UCF) Psychology department has coupled virtual reality with olfactory stimulation in one treatment to help treat veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The Trauma Management Therapy Program is 17 weeks long and free to every Iraq and Afghanistan veteran.
The first 5 weeks of the program focus on exposure for the individual veteran. Research has demonstrated such exposure therapy is quite possibly the most effective PTSD treatment. Researchers simulate specific, trauma-causing combat environments with virtual reality equipment for the veteran-patients. The highly specific scenes and scents to which the veterans are exposed are tailored to every veterans’ trauma. Veterans are given devices with which they can control events that caused them trauma so as to give researchers insight into their root issues.
Other elements such as sights, sounds, and the weather are controlled by the researcher. The smells to which the veteran can be exposed include:
- weapon fire;
- body odor;
- burning rubber;
- diesel fuel;
- Moroccan spices;
- garbage; and
Researchers are able to measure varying levels of anxiety once the veterans are completely absorbed and engrossed in the scene. Over the weeks, the veterans’ response to the treatment is monitored. If progress is made, the veterans are moved into group therapy for the final 12 weeks of the program, which deals with emotional issues stemming from the trauma-causing incident.
This is the first research program utilizing smells with virtual reality on this scale. Early reports are positive.
If you are a disabled veteran who has been denied disability compensation or have not yet applied for benefits from the VA, contact LaVan & Neidenberg. You may be entitled to certain programs and benefits so contact our veterans disability rights firm today.