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Pheromones & epigenetically-effected circuit-based brain development

Posted on May 5, 2013 by James Kohl.

Re: NIMH Research Domain Criteria (RDoC),  pheromones, and epigenetically-effected circuit-based dimensions during the adaptively evolved development of the human brain and behavior

(RDoC) 1.  Environmental aspects. “The central nervous system is exquisitely sensitive to interactions with various elements of its environment virtually from the moment of conception.”

See for example: From Fertilization to Adult Sexual Behavior (vertebrates; a mammalian model).

(RDoC)  2. Environmental aspects. “The social and physical environment comprises sources of both risk and protection for many different disorders occurring at all points along the life span, and methods for studying such phenomena as gene expression, neural plasticity, and various types of learning are rapidly advancing.”

See for example: Organizational and activational effects of hormones on insect behavior (invertebrates; the honeybee model organism) Conclusion: While the insect literature contains numerous examples of hormone activation, explicit use of the organization concept provides a window into the developmental origins of phenotypic variation in behavior. It also broadens the time course over which hormonal actions on insect behavior are considered, from egg to adult.’

(RDoC)  3. Environmental aspects. “As with developmental aspects, environmental influences may thus be considered as another critical dimension of the RDoC matrix. The effects of a particular interaction with the environment, e.g., the effects of early child abuse, may pose risk for a wide variety of disorders. As another example, illicit drug use may cause sensitization of mesolimbic dopamine circuits that generalizes to other drugs of abuse and addictive behaviors. Thus, it is hoped that a research program organized around the relevant circuit-based dimensions that are affected, independent of a particular disorder, will accelerate knowledge regarding such environmental influences along the entire range of analysis from genes to behavior.”

See for example: Human pheromones: integrating neuroendocrinology and ethology

My comments on this section (paragraphs 1-3) of RDoC: In mammals, circuit-based dimensions that are epigenetically effected by sensory input from the social environment in species from microbes to man include the nutrient-dependent pheromone-controlled epigenetic effects on hypothalamic gondadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH). The epigenetic effects of olfactory/pheromonal input link a direct effect from nutrient stress and social stress to gene activation in hormone-secreting nerve cells of tissue in an organ (i.e., the brain), which is adaptively evolved to control organ systems via the feedback loops of multisensory integration, which are responsible for behavior. The central role of vertebrate GnRH is conserved across 400 million years of adaptive evolution. Its receptor diversifies and enables ecological and social niche construction, which results in neurogenic niche construction and socio-cognitive niche construction as is required for the adaptive evolution of embodied cognition. My model eliminates the mind/body dichotomy.

See for example: The Mind’s Eyes: Human pheromones, neuroscience, and male sexual preferences and the comment on my model by Simon Le Vay in Gay, Straight, and the Reason Why: The Science of Sexual Orientation. p. 210 ‘This model is attractive in that it solves the “binding problem” of sexual attraction. By that I mean the problem of why all the different features of men or women (visual appearance and feel of face, body, and genitals; voice quality, smell; personality and behavior, etc.) attract people as a more or less coherent package representing one sex, rather than as an arbitrary collage of male and female characteristics. If all these characteristics come to be attractive because they were experienced in association with a male- or female-specific pheromone, then they will naturally go together even in the absence of complex genetically coded instructions.”

And now, Simon’s caveat: “Still, even in fruit flies, other sensory input besides pheromones — acoustic, tactile, and visual stimuli — play a role in sexual attraction, and sex specific responses to these stimuli appear to be innate rather than learned by association [36.]. We simply don’t know where the boundary between prespecified attraction and learned association lie in our own species, nor do we have compelling evidence for the primacy of one sense over another.”

There is overwhelming evidence for the primacy of olfaction and pheromones in the nutrient-dependent pheromone-controlled development of behavior in species from microbes to man. Responses to olfactory/pheromonal input (e.g., nutrients that metabolize to pheromones) are innate. Species-specific responses to acoustic, tactile, and visual stimuli are learned via association with olfactory/pheromonal input.  Model organisms: yeast, nematodes, flies, ants, honeybees, mice, rats, sheep et al., exemplify nutrient-dependent pheromone-controlled development of behavior associated with single amino acid substitutions and genes of large effect. These genes are clearly responsible for species diversity that include nutrient-dependent sexually-selected phenotypic diversity in a human population that arose during the past ~30,000 years (Kohl, submitted).

See for example: Human pheromones and food odors: epigenetic influences on the socioaffective nature of evolved behaviors. “”The concept that is extended is the epigenetic tweaking of immense gene networks in ‘superorganisms’ (Lockett, Kucharski, & Maleszka, 2012) that ‘solve problems through the exchange and the selective cancellation and modification of signals (Bear, 2004, p. 330)’. It is now clearer how an environmental drive probably evolved from that of food ingestion in unicellular organisms to that of socialization in insects. It is also clear that, in mammals, food odors and pheromones cause changes in hormones such as LH, which has developmental affects on sexual behavior in nutrient-dependent, reproductively fit individuals across species of vertebrates.”

What remains to be seen is whether my model will ever be incorporated into study designs based on the NIMH Research Domain Criteria (RDoC).

If it is not, I think we can expect progress to be slow in attempts to understand more about Nutrient-dependent / Pheromone-controlled Adaptive EvolutionNutrient-dependent / Pheromone-controlled thermodynamics and thermoregulation; Nutrient-dependent / Pheromone-controlled symbiosis; Nutrient-dependent / Pheromone-controlled morphogenesis; Nutrient-dependent / Pheromone-controlled epistasis; Nutrient-dependent / Pheromone-controlled embodied cognition; or mammalian nutrient-dependent pheromone-controlled Hypothalamic programming of systemic ageing involving IKK-b,NF-kB and GnRH.




James Kohl
Retired medical laboratory scientist

James Kohl

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James Kohl owns, and he has published books and award-winning research journal articles about human pheromones. With colleagues he was the first to show that a mixture of human pheromones increases the flirtatious behaviors of women, and increases their level of attraction to the man wearing the mixture - during a real-life social circumstance lasting 15 minutes.

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