Feeds

Do pheromones work in human sexual attraction?

Vomeronasal organ: dead or alive?

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

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

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
Bond villains lament as Wicked Lasers withdraw death ray
Want to arm that shark? Better get in there quick
Renewable energy 'simply WON'T WORK': Top Google engineers
Windmills, solar, tidal - all a 'false hope', say Stanford PhDs
SEX BEAST SEALS may be egging each other on to ATTACK PENGUINS
Boffin: 'I think the behaviour is increasing in frequency'
Reuse the Force, Luke: SpaceX's Elon Musk reveals X-WING designs
And a floating carrier for recyclable rockets
The next big thing in medical science: POO TRANSPLANTS
Your brother's gonna die, kid, unless we can give him your, well ...
Antarctic ice THICKER than first feared – penguin-bot boffins
Robo-sub scans freezing waters, rocks warming models
NASA launches new climate model at SC14
75 days of supercomputing later ...
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
Your PHONE is slowly KILLING YOU
Doctors find new Digitillnesses - 'text neck' and 'telepressure'
prev story

Whitepapers

Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Go beyond APM with real-time IT operations analytics
How IT operations teams can harness the wealth of wire data already flowing through their environment for real-time operational intelligence.
How to determine if cloud backup is right for your servers
Two key factors, technical feasibility and TCO economics, that backup and IT operations managers should consider when assessing cloud backup.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?