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Food odors and social odors

Posted on April 1, 2012 by James Kohl.

The convergence of findings detailed in these two recent publications (linked below) makes it harder to defend a model where attraction to androgenic physical features of human males depends on their automagically determined visual appeal. I’ve waited several years for publication of the paper by Lenochova et al., after I saw her preliminary poster presentation from an conference. The work by her and her colleagues supports our work with pheromone enhancement of natural body odor. If fragrance can enhance the appeal of natural body odor, we should be able to further enhance appeal by adding pheromones, as we have repeatedly shown.

Effects of fragrance are actually unconsious affects via their association with natural species-specific odors that differentially alter levels of luteinizing hormone and brain development in males compared to human females. Brain imaging tells that these unconscious affects are more important to the development of behavior than is conscious perception of visual input. Besides, there’s no animal model for effects of conscious perception on species-specific behavior.

Food odors and social odors

Nutrient chemicals up-regulate and pheromones down-regulate the complex calibration, standardization, and control of gene expression that is responsible for the development of ecological and social niches in species from microbes to man. The direct “epigenetic” effect of these “food” odors and “social” odors on intracellular signaling pathways is what makes these two types of chemical cues as important to understanding the development of human behavior as they are to understanding behavior in every other species. The honeybee is the model organism that has emerged for use to portray the involvement of sensory input from the environment in the development of human behavior. It may surprise some people to learn that the incentive salience of visual and auditory stimuli pales by comparison to that of olfactory/pheromonal input, but this neuroscientific fact would not come as a surprise to any other species of insect or mammal.

Kohl, J.V. (2012) Human pheromones and food odors: epigenetic influences on the socioaffective nature of evolved behaviors. Socioaffective Neuroscience & Psychology, 2: 17338.

Social odors

Fragrance use does not merely mask their natural odor production, it adds to the appeal of men’s axillary odors. Could cultural practices associated with fragrance use contribute to the complex calibration, standardization, and control of genotype and phenotypic expression frequencies in different ancestral species and modern man? Can the biological basis of culture be found in the chemistry of social odors?

Lenochova, P., Vohnoutova, P., Roberts, S. C., Oberzaucher, E., Grammer, K., & Havlicek, J. (2012). Psychology of Fragrance Use: Perception of Individual Odor and Perfume Blends Reveals a Mechanism for Idiosyncratic Effects on Fragrance Choice. PLoS ONE, 7(3), e33810.



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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