Feeds

Do pheromones work in human sexual attraction?

Vomeronasal organ: dead or alive?

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Application security programs and practises

Asked by Lisa McMillan of East London, United Kingdom

This question never seems to go away. Most scientists would say that there is little evidence that humans rely very much upon pheromones as a sexual attractant. Pheromones are special chemicals produced by animals that serve to direct behavior, including sexual behavior. In mating, other animals rely upon the sense of smell much more than we humans do.

It is argued that we humans have virtually lost our ability to be attracted by pheromones and hence pheromones are important in human sexuality only minimally or not at all. Nevertheless, some scientists contend that a tiny sense organ in our nasal cavity, the Vomeronasal Organ (VNO) which is sometimes called Jacobson’s Organ, is capable of detecting chemical sexual attractants passed on unconsciously between people. The VNO is located in the vomer bone between the nose and the mouth. How it functions in humans is disputed. In animals, it is much clearer:

  • Mice use the VNO to detect pheromones - vital in making mousy mating.
  • Cats use the VNO to detect nepetalactone. This give them the “high” from catnip.
  • Snakes use the VNO to sense prey by sticking out their forked-tongue and withdrawing it - touching the VNO in the process.
  • Elephants stimulate themselves by transferring sensory stimulating chemicals to their VNO via the tip of their trunks.

In humans, the VNO first appears during fetal development. Strangely, it then shrinks to almost nothing by the time of birth. We don’t know why. In adults, a small pit can be found in the nasal septum of some people, but not in all. Again, we don’t know why. Some scientists think that this tiny remnant means that the VNO still can work - at least in some humans. But what the VNO can do is anyone’s guess. Anyone care for a pheromone perfume for Saturday night?

Stephen Juan, Ph.D. is an anthropologist at the University of Sydney. Email your Odd Body questions to s.juan@edfac.usyd.edu.au

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
Just TWO climate committee MPs contradict IPCC: The two with SCIENCE degrees
'Greenhouse effect is real, but as for the rest of it ...'
Asteroid's DINO KILLING SPREE just bad luck – boffins
Sauricide WASN'T inevitable, reckon scientists
BEST BATTERY EVER: All lithium, all the time, plus a dash of carbon nano-stuff
We have found the Holy Grail (of batteries) - boffins
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
Famous 'Dish' radio telescope to be emptied in budget crisis: CSIRO
Radio astronomy suffering to protect Square Kilometre Array
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable
Learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.