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Objectives: Odor presence may change the way a visual stimulus is perceived, and emotional state can influence olfaction, or the sense of smell (Zald & Parado,1997; Seubert et. al,2009; Pollatos et. al,2007). Under a negative emotional state, both males and females had decreased olfactory detection sensitivity but only males rated odors as being more unpleasant and intense (Chen & Dalton,2005). No study has examined sex differences in the effects of social and non-social stress on affective state and olfactory functioning. Females experience greater negative affect in response to social stress compared to males, who appear have distress following achievement stress (Stroud et. al,2002). In this project, sex differences in the impact of social stress and achievement stress on affective state and olfactory function will be investigated. Methods: Participants (N=128) will be randomly assigned to either: social or achievement stress condition. All participants will undergo baseline testing of odor detection sensitivity, hedonics, and intensity, then complete a battery of self-report questionnaires assessing affect, rejection sensitivity, and self-esteem. Participants in the social stress condition will undergo one round of Cyberball and participants in the achievement stress condition will take a difficult arithmetic test. Immediately after stress exposure, repeat olfactory testing and battery of questionnaires assessing affect and perceived stress will be administered. Significance: This project will expand the understanding of how affect and olfaction are related, and how sex influences these relations specifically how stress conditions induce negative affect and alter olfactory functioning. Since social impairment is present across a number of psychiatric disorders and olfaction is related to social functioning, understanding the impact of social versus non-social stress on affective state and olfactory function advancements in prevention and treatment of psychiatric disorders can be achieved. Differences between sex regarding olfactory functioning, emotional regulation, and reactions to stress

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Project Designation

Graduate Research

Primary Advisor

Julie Walsh Messinger

Primary Advisor's Department



Stander Symposium poster


Presenter: Sahar Kaouk

Stress and Olfaction: The Affective Link