Among the olfactory techniques, the OSTMR method or “olfactory stimulation therapy and memory reconstruction”. It was developed by Brussels resident Olga Alexandre, neuropsychiatrist and graduate in fine biochemistry and toxicology, a professional who also works in the world of perfume.
Nothing very new in principle, since making patients sniff has always been part of medical practice. But, to better chemically analyze the “smell” of certain diseases, scientists have become interested in the complex circuit of smell.
To discover how much flair, memory, emotion are intertwined: in November 2022, a study from the Pasteur Institute published in Nature Communication details a neuronal back and forth between odors and the brain. “If the perception of odors is constantly guided and shaped through the prism of olfactory memory, our past experience assists the work of perception and recognition of an odor,” emphasize the researchers.
This is a kind of rehabilitation after a partial or complete loss of smell. But also to use olfaction as an element in the treatment of post-traumatic stress, anxiety and eating disorders, and even chronic pain. How does Olga Alexandre do it?
The patient must practice smelling and understanding odors in order to work on his emotions, his perception of pain, his memory problems, his disgusts or phobias. Simple smells are offered to him, which he must associate with colors on a color chart and images of objects. His bodily attitude, his emotional reactions - including the heart rate - are the basis of the therapist's work, a bit like what is done with EMDR (visual therapy).
The objective of therapeutic work on odors is to… “feel good”! In addition to the pleasure of a smell considered pleasant, the patient confronts his own olfactory memory and discovers that it is more important than he imagined. He can exercise to improve his autobiographical memory and, here and now, his quality of life.
For example, for elderly people, faced with the loss of taste and smell which leads to a lack of appetite and are at risk of malnutrition. Likewise, those whose nose is their job (cooks, perfumers, etc.) and who have been contaminated by Covid could benefit from this rehabilitation. OSTMR is offered in certain large French cities by trained professionals, but who are not necessarily doctors. As with any alternative therapy, be sure to discuss it with your GP.