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AChems Press Release

Bombarded with the smell of combat, trauma returns

The extent veterans relate an odor to their combat experience is associated with symptoms of re-experiencing trauma memories. Deficits in filtering sensory information in the brain could be the cause.

Burnt rubber, spent gunpowder, burning flesh: a few of the smells associated with combat that could haunt military service members, especially those battling posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In a group of combat veterans, we observed heightened perception of combat-relatedness of odors among those with severe intrusive re-experiencing symptoms of PTSD. Using brain electrical recordings (EEG), we found that deficits in brain activity responsible for filtering out sensory information were associated with such excessive combat-related perception. This suggests that deficient sensory filtering can distort processing of environmental cues and over-activate threat memories, triggering a reliving of a trauma that characterizes PTSD. (contact: Kevin J. Clancy, clancy@psy.fsu.edu; +1 262-364-9193)

The poster presentation “Sensory Gating Deficits Mediate Threat Encoding of Olfactory Stimuli and Intrusive Re-Experiencing Symptoms in Combat-Exposed Veterans.” (#P219) takes place Wednesday, 18 April, 9:00 – 11:00 pm ET in the Estero Ballroom

Full author list: Kevin J. Clancy, Alejandro Albizu, Norman B. Schmidt, Wen Li