Alexithymia and emotional reactions to odors


Scientific Reports


1 October, 2017


Cecchetto, C. Rumiati, R.I., & Aiello, M.

Alexithymia is a psychological construct characterized by deficits in processing emotional stimuli. However, little is known about the processing of odours in alexithymia, even though there is extensive proof that emotion and olfaction are closely linked. The present study is aimed at investigating how alexithymic individuals process emotions conveyed by odors. Emotional responses to unpleasant, neutral odors and clean air were collected through self-report ratings and psychophysiological measures in a sample of 62 healthy participants with high (HA), medium (MA) and low (LA) levels of alexithymia. Moreover, participants performed tests on odors identification and threshold and completed questionnaires assessing olfactory imagery and awareness. Two main results have been found: first, HA and MA groups showed altered physiological responses to odors, compared to LA, while no differences among the groups were observed in odor ratings; and second, affective and cognitive alexithymia components were differently associated with the performance on olfactory tests, skin conductance response to odors, reaction times in the rating task, and scores on olfactory questionnaires. We conclude that alexithymia is characterized by altered physiological reactions to olfactory stimuli; moreover, we stress the importance of evaluating the different alexithymia components since they affect emotional stimuli processing in different ways.


Cecchetto, C. Rumiati, R.I., & Aiello, M. (2017). Alexithymia and emotional reactions to odors. In press in Scientific Reports, Oct 26;7(1):14097. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-14404-x

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