Human Sex Attractant Pheromones: Discovery, Research And Development

Poster Presentation at the International Society of Psychoneuroendocrinology XXXth Congress held in Florida on August 1, 1999.

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ISPNE is an interdisciplinary, professional organization comprised of scholars and researchers who coordinate their experiences of research areas dealing with hormones and the brain. The abstract was recently published in ISPNE's official scientific journal, Psychoneuroendocrinology, Volume 24, Supplement 1, 2000.

One of the main issues addressed in Dr. Cutler's presentation, Human Sex Attractant Pheromones: Discovery, Research, and Development, was the role in pheromonal receptivity of the Vomeronasal organ in humans. While olfactory sites in humans demand further research, her studies suggest the human receptor site called the Olfactory Epithelium as the source of sex-attractant pheromonal action. The VNO, Dr. Cutler reasons, seems to serve as a mediator or receptor site of the aversive, repellant-type human pheromones.

Pheromones were first defined in 1959 as chemical substances excreted by animals which trigger reproductive behavioral response from a recipient of the same species.

By 1999, from a biological perspective, the term pheromone can be defined as a chemical excreted by animals that promotes behaviors which perpetuate the species.

Four kinds of pheromonal communication have now been reported in humans as well as other animals:

1. Mother/Infant Recognition enabling suckling to be limited to the genetic offspring;

2. Enhancement of women's fertility cycles via treatment with both men's and women's' pheromones;

3. Territorial marking to repel others;

4. Sexual Attraction - Luring By The Most Fertile: Hysterectomy/Ovariectomy abolishes sexual attractiveness in monkeys which can be restored with sex-attractant pheromones. Human data suggest a similar pattern.

Sex-attractant type pheromones can be better understood from the perspective of the historical overview. Chemicals which serve as sex attractants in one species may act as territorial markers (repellents) in other species. For example, the pig sex attractant androstenol has been shown to be aversive to humans in several different reports.

Olfactory system research in a variety of animals currently suggests that the 2 putative olfactory receptor sites serve different pheromonal actions. In humans, olfactory sites remain unproven. Two receptor sites may exist, each performing different functions. An anatomical dichotomy currently appears likely in humans: Olfactory Epithelium (the sex attractants), Vomeronasal Organ (the repellents) Anosmias which occur in humans, and those experimentally induced in animals, reveal that anosmia profoundly alters sexual behavior in novices but sexually experienced animals may display no obvious deficit. Anosmic humans have been investigated for sexual deficits without finding any.

Sex attractant pheromones appear to enhance the existing sexual repertoire without being required for sexual activity to occur. Eight potential roles in fostering the well being of men and women are worth exploring.