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Pheromonemotionally speaking

Posted on October 8, 2012 by James Kohl.

Endocrine disruptors, diet, and human pheromones epigenetically alter the socioaffective nature of evolved behavior

Excerpt from Kohl (2012): Human pheromones and food odors: epigenetic influences on the socioaffective nature of evolved behaviors:

“…endocrine disruptors and pheromones may act on species-specific and sex-specific GnRH feedback pathways to alter the estrous cycle and alter pubertal onset via changes in gene expression that result in significant physiological and behavioral changes throughout life (Cao, Mickens, McCaffrey, Leyrer, & Patisaul, 2011).”


Now see:  Anxiogenic effects of developmental bisphenol a exposure are associated with gene expression changes in the juvenile rat amygdala and mitigated by soy Patisaul et al (2012).  (I met Heather Patisaul during a prosocial behavior conference at Emory University last year and am happy to learn she has followed her earlier published works with one that helps to extend my model across species).

Excerpt: “…the rat is an appropriate animal model for understanding how the interaction of BPA and diet influence sociosexual behaviors, and identifying the neural mechanisms by which these changes are induced.”


BPA is an endocrine disruptor. BPA, nutrient chemicals in our diet, and pheromones alter GnRH secretion, which alters levels of other hormones. It goes without saying that the rat is an animal model used to investigate the role of pheromones and of GnRH in the development of human behavior. It is also generally agreed that sexual experience can induce short-term and long-term alterations in levels of other hormones that are controlled by GnRH.

Patisaul et al (2012) brings to the table the epigenetic effects of diet, endocrine disruptors, and pheromones on the GnRH neuronal system and extends the epigenetic effects of pheromones to the regulation of oxytocin and vassopressin. Until now, there has been no direct link from the sensory environment to behavioral affects of oxytocin and vassopressin.  The direct link was predicted.

Excerpt 2 from Kohl (2012): “Collectively, effects on hormones help to extend animal models of food selection and social selection to sexual selection because they involve the same pathway. In theory, this GnRH-directed neurophysiological pathway may be the FDA’s ‘Critical Path’, which is recommended for crucial consideration in the development of new therapeutic drugs. In fact, it incorporates the hypothalamic GnRH pulse as the epigenetically effected neurophysiological mechanism that links the effects of food odors and pheromones to the secretion of other hormones and to the affects of many different hormones on behavior.”

Patisaul et al (2012) makes it clearer that the effects of pheromones on GnRH in the rat extend to the effects of pheromones on oxytocin, which have until now been only indirectly linked to a variety of human behaviors in the absence of any model for sensory cause and effects on hormones that affect behavior. It is the absence of a model that leaves many researchers floundering when they attempt to explain cause and effect. At best, their theories may determine what they think they have  observed and meaningfully interpreted.  For comparison, models determine what can be explained in context. The role of oxytocin, for example, must be explained in the context of how pheromones, food odors, and endocrine disruptors epigenetically effect sociosexual behavior.





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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