A new study has found that scent can help improve mood in people living with depression.

Published in February, the study — conducted by neuroscientists at the University of Pittsburgh — exposed 32 people with Major Depressive Disorder, aged 18 to 55, to 12 commonplace smells including Vicks Vaporub, coffee, and vanilla extract.

Turns out, these scents functioned something like olfactive triggers for participants in the study — the smells were more effective than words at cueing memories from their past.

Often, people with Major Depressive Disorder have problems recalling autobiographical memories. This, in turn, can cause patients to "focus only on negative events or interpret events in a negative light," according to The Telegraph.

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By engaging the amygdala, the part of the brain that controls "fight or flight" response — and more crucially in this case, connects emotion to memory — scents help trigger memories that feel "real" and vivid.

“If we improve memory, we can improve problem solving, emotion regulation and other functional problems that depressed individuals often experience,” said Kymberly Young, an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh and the co-author of the study.

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Scent doesn't just show promise as a depression treatment — aromatherapy is also being used in cancer treatment and palliative care. Preliminary research even shows that "training" our noses through exposure to different scents could help improve cognitive function. While more studies are needed, the scent-cognition connection is spurring new exploration of smell as a tool in Alzheimers and dementia treatment.

So the next time you spritz your favorite fragrance, breathe deep — there's more there than meets the nose.

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