Human brain imagery finally confirms olfactory/pheromonal biological embedding

September 24, 2013 | James Kohl

Maternal status regulates cortical responses to the body odor of newborns by Johan N. Lundström, Annegret Mathe, Benoist Schaal, Johannes Frasnelli, Katharina Nitzsche, Johannes Gerber and Thomas Hummel

Their conclusion: “These findings add to a growing literature that suggests that cues embedded within the complex mixture of body odors may be responsible for eliciting and/or supporting psychobiological processes.”

My comments: I have detailed and modeled in their entirety each aspect of HOW cues embedded within the complex mixture of body odors epigenetically effect all mammals and  in insects via conserved molecular mechanisms. The complex mixtures of body odors are typically called pheromones. Clearly, “…it is pointless to argue over the strict ‘pheromonal’ status of each compound that has been/will be identified as exerting an influence on mammalian neuroendocrine or behavioral function.”  Instead, see, for example with my emphasis below: Nutrient-dependent / Pheromone-controlled Adaptive Evolution or see any of my published works (since 1995).

“Chemical ecology drives adaptive evolution via 1) ecological niche construction, 2) social niche construction, 3) neurogenic niche construction, and 4) socio-cognitive niche construction (Kohl, 2012). Nutrients are metabolized to pheromones that condition effects on hormones that affect behavior in the same way that food odors condition behavior associated with food preferences. In mammals, the epigenetic effects of olfactory/pheromonal input (i.e., odors) calibrate and standardize molecular mechanisms for genetically predisposed receptor-mediated changes in intracellular signaling and stochastic gene expression in gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH) neurosecretory neurons of brain tissue. For example: glucose (Roland and Moenter, 2011) and pheromones alter the secretion of GnRH and luteinizing hormone (LH). Secretion of LH is the measurable proxy for genetically predisposed differences in hypothalamic GnRH pulse frequency and amplitude and the downstream effects of GnRH on the HPG axis and the HPA axis that provide feedback to the GnRH neuronal system. GnRH is the central regulator of genetically predisposed nutrient-dependent individual survival and pheromone-controlled species survival.”

The fact that brain imaging studies continue to support my model, as they always have, can now be addressed in the context of the importance of brain imagery to understanding biologically based cause and effect. Jaak Panksepp said it best: “My feeling is that the social brain has many levels. If you don’t understand the foundational level, then you can do brain imaging until you’re blue in the face, but you still will not understand the process at a deep causal level.

It has been more than a decade since Panksepp’s group won their award for Comparative approaches in evolutionary psychology: molecular neuroscience meets the mind, which is the award that my group won for Human pheromones: integrating neuroendocrinology and ethology. Both articles were published in the same peer-reviewed journal: Neuroendocrinology Letters.

Reports like the one by Lundström et al (2013), and my published reviews in 2012 and 2013 indicate that we are now well on our way to understanding why it is important to understand HOW conserved molecular mechanisms enable comparative approaches to socio-cognitive niche construction. The brain imaging consistently tells us that human pheromones enable the integration of neuroendocrinology, ethology, and the physiology of adaptively evolved behaviors in species from microbes to man. Thus, as many people know, Physiology is rocking the foundations of evolutionary biology. This clearly places the role of brain imagery in the context of ballast that serves to limit rocking of the unscientific academic foundations of scientific pursuits via the focus of many academics on evolutionary theory instead of biological facts.

Results from brain imaging can be meaningfully interpreted only in the context of biological facts. And the biological facts about the role of body odors in eliciting and/or supporting psychobiological processes have been available to theorists for more than 16 years. See, for example: From Fertilization to Adult Sexual Behavior, with my emphasis in the quote below.

” Griffith and Williams (1996) have, however, partially detailed the “imprinting-like” importance of olfaction and vision in the adult-to-infant maternal bond established between a cow and her calf. They find “… the inhibitory influence of suckling on LH secretion can be sustained only in the presence of olfactory and/or visual signals unique to the cow’s own calf” (p. 767). The cow’s development of selectivity for her calf can be established in fewer than five minutes. Similarly, the development of a ewe’s selectivity for her lamb can be established in about two hours. This selectivity in sheep seems to be more dependent upon olfactory than visual stimuli. Griffith and Williams note: “In all species studied, olfaction is a critical factor in the cascade of physiological and behavioral events leading to the development of maternal selectivity” (p. 767). Maternal selectivity may be comparable to a human mother’s bond with her child.”

Now there’s evidence from brain imagery that Maternal status regulates cortical responses to the body odor of newborns in humans. However, it is even clearer that “… the social brain has many levels. If you don’t understand the foundational level, then you can do brain imaging until you’re blue in the face, but you still will not understand the process at a deep causal level.

Understanding biologically based cause and effect at a deep causal level of conserved molecular mechanisms clearly will continue to  rock “… the foundations of evolutionary biology.” Finally, results from brain imaging may begin to be meaningfully interpreted in the context of epigenetic cause and effect.



James Vaughn Kohl

James Vaughn Kohl

James Vaughn Kohl was the first to accurately conceptualize human pheromones, and began presenting his findings to the scientific community in 1992. He continues to present to, and publish for, diverse scientific and lay audiences, while constantly monitoring the scientific presses for new information that is relevant to the development of his initial and ongoing conceptualization of human pheromones.