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Conditioned sexual arousal to odor

Posted on October 31, 2010 by jim.

Here’s a link to an article abstract that indicates that pheromones condition sexual arousal to occur in the presence of other sensory input from the social environment (e.g., odors). However, because the sexual arousal is conditioned to occur, the researchers indicate that pheromones are not the cause of the arousal.

Conditioned sexual arousal in a non-human primate

Pheromones, by definition, effect hormones that affect behavior.  I don’t think most people would argue that pheromones are causing the arousal, because — in this case — the abstract mentions the hormone response. Obviously, some people are more reserved with their use of the term: pheromones. Clearly, it comes down to how you define the term pheromones, and what you expect to observe as a response.  But it should also become clear that some people do not want to extend the original definition of pheromones (as used for insects) to other species in cases where behavior is not quite so dependent on chemical signals from others.

Work by JVK with colleagues LCK and HH,  has shown that the mixture of chemicals in Scent of Eros increases flirtatious behavior and ratings of attraction when these chemicals are worn by a man who interacts with individual women during a 15-minute social construct. They didn’t check for any hormone response, but the mixture’s affect on hormone-associated behavior is probably the first real demonstration that human pheromones (i.e., as originally defined) exist, and also that the behavioral change in women is conditioned to occur in response to the chemicals we used. Once this conditioning has occurred, the pheromones are no longer required, although they can — in other species — elicit the conditioned response. The study linked above is the first demonstration of a conditioned response in another primate species.

Claims by others who may think they have discovered human pheromones, should include:

1. information about the mixture used (because pheromones are typically found in mixtures),

2. excuses for not using a study design that was typical of human social interaction, which is often brief.  (Reports that Athena pheromones are effective in 74% in 8 weeks do not indicate human pheromones are involved.)  See, for example:  Do perfume additives termed human pheromones warrant being termed pheromones?

3. excuses for using a supraphysiological amount of any chemical suspected of having a pheromonal effect on hormones or affect on behavior.  See for review: Human Pheromones: What’s Purported, What’s Supported.

Some researchers and marketers continue to hope consumers will gradually become better informed and make purchases, if any, based on science rather than on vague claims.

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jim
Retired medical laboratory scientist





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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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