MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Dr Lorenzo Stafford, PhD, CPsychol
Senior Lecturer, Department of Psychology
University of Portsmouth
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?
Response: The background to this work was that I had been thinking for sometime on the role of our sense of smell in drug consumption and addiction. Most of the research in this area is dominated by visual processes, in particular showing how cues associated to drugs (e.g. packet of cigarettes, bottle of beer) become conditioned in such drug users. That work has been useful in explaining how in recovering addicts, long after the withdrawal symptoms have subsided, when exposed to such cues, they can nevertheless relapse to craving and consuming the drug; hence though a powerful driver, addiction is not just about reversing withdrawal symptoms.
However, most of our richer experiences are multisensory, so it seems likely that other senses must also play a role in the addictive process. Years ago, I completed a PhD on the topic of caffeine and with the general importance placed on the sensory (especially smell) aspects of coffee, all planted the seed for a possible study. We completed two experiments that examined the lowest concentration at which participants (high, moderate and non-coffee consumers) could detect (Threshold test) a coffee associated chemical (exp 1) and in a separate task, how fast they were at identifying (Recognition test) the odour of real coffee. In experiment 2, participants (coffee consumers and non-consumers) completed the same Threshold test for the coffee odour but also completed a Threshold test for a control odour.