Background: Exposure therapy (EXP) is a first-line intervention for combat-related PTSD. EXP works by repeatedly exposing the patient to the feared stimuli, situation, or physical sensations in the absence of actual danger until the stimuli no longer evoke maladaptive responses. Over the past decade, multiple technologies have been introduced to augment the EXP process by presenting multi-sensory cues (e.g., sights, smells, sounds) to increase patients' sense of presence. Exploratory research has only broadly examined the effect of odorants on the patient's sense of presence during simulated exposure tasks. This study hypothesized that those with autobiographical memories similar to the virtual environment (VE) and those who received odorants would report experiencing more presence than experimental controls. Methods: 61 veterans and civilian subjects were randomized and asked to participate in a virtual environment simulating a routine OIF/OEF/OND convoy. The effects of odorants and autobiographical memory on presence were assessed via electrodermal activity, respiration, heart rate variability, and self-report measures. Results: Odorants did not significantly influence presence. A relationship between military experience and presence, HRV, and realism was observed. Conclusion: Odorants did not have a statistically significant effect on presence while engaged in a simulated exposure task, which was inconsistent with previous research. The rationale for these findings and recommendations for future research are made.
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Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
College of Sciences
Psychology; Clinical Psychology
Length of Campus-only Access
Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)
Munyan, Benson, "Olfaction, Memory, and Presence in Warfighters: Do the Scents of War Matter?" (2018). Electronic Theses and Dissertations, 2004-2019. 5897.