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Are human pheromones chemosignals?

Posted on November 5, 2012 by James Kohl.

1959: Pheromones’: a new term for a class of biologically active substances Article excerpt: ”Pheromones are defined as substances which are secreted to the outside by an individual and received by a second individual of the same species, in which they release a specific reaction, for example, a definite behavior, or a developmental process.”

2002 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12011790
Abstract excerpt: “…cortisol levels are probably not the inducer of the scent of fear and a hypothetical fear pheromone could have other origins.” This article cites Doty (1986):  “Doty [1] described the advantages of olfactory communication as follows: the sense of smell even works if the other two “major” senses (visual and acoustic) are functionally restricted (for example if it is too dark or too loud).” Citation two is Human pheromones: integrating neuroendocrinology and ethology. “Several studies indicate that humans do indeed seem to use olfactory communication and are even able to produce and perceive certain pheromones (for a detailed overview see [2]).”

2009 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19584317
Article excerpt: “Recent experiments have revolutionized the common beliefs about the control of hormonal responses by pheromones (26, 413). The effects of pheromones on the neuroendocrine status are mediated by a group of neurons in the hypothalamus, which constitutes the endocrine control center (for reviews, see Refs. 89, 245, 353). These neurons secrete the GnRH, also known as LH-RH, which in turn stimulates the anterior pituitary gland to release two gonadotrophins: the luteinizing hormone (LH) and the follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). Both hormones control the development and the function of the gonads in males and females, although with different effects.”

2012 http://dx.doi.org/10.3402/snp.v2i0.17338  Article Excerpt:  “It is also clear that, in mammals, food odors and pheromones cause changes in hormones such as LH, which has developmental affects on sexual behavior in nutrient-dependent, reproductively fit individuals across species of vertebrates.” LH release in males “…unequivocally demonstrates that a classically conditioned stimulus can evoke the secretion of hormones from the pituitary gland and testis as effectively as a sexually receptive female.

My comment: Now that we know what pheromones do, and that they do it via the molecular biology common to species from microbes to man, the only reason to not use the term pheromones is to fool people who continue to think human pheromones don’t exist or to make some people think you have discovered something new. There is no problem with either the definition of pheromones or the concept of human pheromones. The problem is with human pheromone-deniers!

2012 http://pss.sagepub.com/content/early/2012/09/27/0956797612445317.abstract
Article excerpt: Notes 1. We prefer not to use the term pheromone, as the concept of pheromones is controversial and fraught with problems (Doty, 2010), partly because of widely varying and very strict definitions of what constitutes a pheromone. We instead use the term chemosignal, which according to Doty (2010, p. 186) is less problematic when discussing communication.

Article excerpt:
“…fear and disgust are not only distinctive emotions in the way they are reflected in facial expressions and behavior, but also that they are distinctive with respect to the biomarker profile deposited onto the skin while individuals––in this case, sweat donors––are experiencing these respective emotions.”
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My comment: Doty (2010): “The Great Pheromone Myth” is an attempt to redefine “pheromones” and convince others that mammals (e.g., dogs) do not produce pheromones. The “biomarker profile deposited onto the skin” is clearly a mixture of human pheromones that affect emotional expressions in other humans.

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James Kohl
Retired medical laboratory scientist

James Kohl




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What is the vomeronasal organ (VNO)?

The vomeronasal organ (VNO) is a cone-shaped organ in the nasal cavity, which is believed to be one of the body's receptors of pheromones. More, specifically, the VNO, which is part of the accessory olfactory system in the nose, does not respond to normal scents, but may detect odorless, barely perceptible pheromones.

Other schools of thought believe that it is not the VNO but rather cells in our main olfactory system and their affects on hormones secreted by the hypothalamus that are responsible for the affects of pheromones.

Learn more about the science behind pheromones here.

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