Feeds

Do pheromones work in human sexual attraction?

Vomeronasal organ: dead or alive?

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Top three mobile application threats

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

3 Big data security analytics techniques

More from The Register

next story
Red-faced LOHAN team 'fesses up in blown SPEARS fuse fiasco
Standing in the corner, big pointy 'D' hats
KILLER SPONGES menacing California coastline
Surfers are safe, crustaceans less so
Opportunity selfie: Martian winds have given the spunky ol' rover a spring cleaning
Power levels up 70 per cent as the rover keeps on truckin'
Liftoff! SpaceX Falcon 9 lifts Dragon on third resupply mission to ISS
SpaceX snaps smartly into one-second launch window
KILLER ROBOTS, DNA TAMPERING and PEEPING CYBORGS: the future looks bright!
Americans optimistic about technology despite being afraid of EVERYTHING
Discovery time for 200m WONDER MATERIALS shaved from 4 MILLENNIA... to 4 years
Alloy, Alloy: Boffins in speed-classification breakthrough
Elon Musk's LEAKY THRUSTER gas stalls Space Station supply run
Helium seeps from Falcon 9 first stage, delays new legs for NASA robonaut
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.