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Human pheromones, face recognition, and other cognitive abilities

Posted on March 12, 2013 by James Kohl.

On the Genetic Basis of Face Cognition and its Relation to Fluid Cognitive Abilities
Astrid Kiy, Oliver Wilhelm, Andrea Hildebrandt, Martin Reuter & Werner Sommer, in Genes, Brain and Behavior (2013) DOI: 10.1111/gbb.12034 [subscription required]

Abstract Excerpt: “The sex specificity of this relationship is a novel finding and warrants a mechanistic explanation.”

My comment:
In Synchronous Evolution of an Odor Biosynthesis Pathway and Behavioral Response,
species- and sex-dependent behaviors are linked to nutrient-dependent pheromone-controlled adaptive evolution. There is a direct link from well-detailed and conserved molecular mechansims to hormone-organized and hormone-activated behaviors. For example, see: Feedback loops link odor and pheromone signaling with reproduction.

The complex systems biology of thermodynamically controlled protein biosynthesis and organism-level thermoregulation associated with adaptive evolution via nutrient-dependent mammalian pheromone production and distribution has not yet been directly linked to the genetic basis of face cognition and fluid cognitive abilities. However, we know that Pubertally born neurons and glia are functionally integrated into limbic and hypothalamic circuits of the male Syrian hamster, and that these circuits are involved in sex differences in behavior.

We also know that the circuitry of the oxytocin system and the dopaminergic system develop via associations with ecological, social, and neurogenic niche construction that depends on the conservation of gonadotropin releasing hormone and diversification of its receptor across 400 million years of vertebrate evolution. This links gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH) to oxytocin, dopamine, and to associated receptor-mediated behaviors. These receptor-mediated behaviors are obviously nutrient-dependent and pheromone-controlled in other species via the epigenetic effects of food odors and pheromones on genes in cells of tissue in the mammalian brain. That brain tissue secretes GnRH.

This suggests that conserved molecular mechanisms link amino acid substitutions to thermodynamic control of genetically predisposed socio-cognitive niche construction and sex differences in face recognition via olfaction and odor receptors, which provide a clear evolutionary trail that can be followed from unicellular organisms to insects to humans. This clear evolutionary trail, which incorporates ecological, social, neurogenic, and socio-cognitive niche construction, suggests that the species specificity and the sex specificity of the novel relationship mentioned here warrants a mechanistic explanation that is comparable to the one that incorporates the epigenetic effects of food odors and pheromones on adaptive evolution. At some point, the number of suggestions that attest to the conserved molecular mechanisms of cause and effect becomes more important than theory to explanations of face recognition and behavior.

It has been difficult to theoretically link human-specific mutations from existing brain areas in other species to cognitive phenotype. It may be easier to use a model of adaptive evolution sans mutations theory; one with examples of epigenetic cause and effect across species.

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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.

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Learn more about the science behind pheromones here.

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