Nosing out a Mate

Major science national magazine, SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, publishes special edition with article on
"Your New Senses"
including the pheromone research of Dr. Winnifred Cutler and colleagues

Review the 2002 independent study on Athena Pheromone 10:13tm for Women, published in Physiology and Behavior click here

Review the study on Athena Pheromone 10Xtm for men published in Archives of Sexual Behavior, 1998. click here

August 23, 1999 Copyright © 1999 Scientific American

Excerpted by Athena Institute

Author: Meredith F. Small

All other mammals rely on chemical attractants to find that special someone. Will human suitors of the future be able to pack the power of pheromones?

It’s Saturday night in the year 2030 and time for your night on the town. It doesn’t matter much what you wear, just be sure to dab on a little of that stuff you bought from the local pheromone shop. You might reach for a vial of your own essence that’s been specially concentrated to make the most of your own attractive powers – or maybe you favor a synthesized version of the movie-star-of-the moment’s je ne sais quoi. Perhaps you go for a tube of the chemistry of some unknown person who just happens to be better looking, more confident or blessed with superior genes to yours. Regardless, it’s off to the neighborhood Fern-and-Sniff bar, and good luck!

Recent research suggests that humans, like many other organisms, can be sensitive to pheromones, which are thought to be odorless chemicals secreted from the body and picked up by a special organ in the nose. In the animal kingdom and among insects, pheromones convey information to other members of the species about an individual’s gender, reproductive status and rank on the social ladder. Contrary to popular misunderstanding, pheromones are not strictly sex attractants, but they do play a role in the mating rituals of everything from moths to mice.

Do humans have pheromones?(click for more research on pheromone discovery) Right now the jury is still out. But scientists know that something – perhaps a pheromone – in the underarm sweat of some women can alter the menstrual cycle of other women who come in close contact with them. Some investigators even have early indications that such airborne chemicals might unconsciously influence who we choose as mates.

More than a few researchers predict that science will isolate an incontrovertible human pheromone early in the next century – in fact, some contend they already have. How will that change tomorrow’s battle of the sexes? Will a chemical advantage in the mating dance be as close as the corner shop?

Other animals have been using their noses to find mates for a long time. Far up in the nasal passages of all mammals – including humans – are receptors that react to odors and pass on the signals we register as smells to the neocortex, the ‘gray matter” of the brain. But many claim we also possess another nasal sense called the vomeronasal organ (VNO), a pair of tiny sacs that lies closer to the nostrils. ***

In the 1970’s scientists showed that smell, whether of odors or pheromones, has a powerful role in mate choice – at least in rodents. *** But in the 1980’s anatomists found evidence that the VNO exists in most adult people, even though it might not operate as well as it does in other mammals.*** Martha McClintock first documented in the 1970s that the menstrual cycles of women who spend a lot of time together eventually synchronize, suggesting that something that can waft from one woman to another must be at work.

Researchers {Cutler and colleagues in the mid 1980’s, click for references/research list} then used cotton pads to see if they could swab the substance from female armpits. They first removed any odoriferous compound from the pads and then wiped the remaining tasteless, odorless liquid onto the upper lips of other women. After a few months, they observed, the periods of the women who agreed to have the potential pheromone dabbed under their nose were in sync.

The same research protocol was used to show that men can influence the female cycles as well. A group of men offered up their armpit sweat, which was deodorized and then wiped on the upper lips of women with irregular menstrual cycles. Repeated exposure to the male secretions caused the women to cycle regularly, presumably by making them ovulate in a timely manner. Living with a man is presumed to have the same effect. ***

Winnifred B. Cutler (click for bio) of the Athena Institute for Women’s Wellness Research has branched into commercial products as well. Her Chester springs, PA- based company, which also conducts research, advertises vials of odorless synthetic human pheromones as additives to one’s favorite scent. These scents are intended to “increase the romantic attention from the oppose sex”…

Cutler... has backed up this claim with a double-blind study of her men’s solution {Archives of Sexual Behavior, 1998}. Men who used the compound in their aftershave lotion for six weeks reported that they increased the number of times they slept next to a woman and also said they had more sexual intercourse *** Because the men didn’t masturbate more, she and her colleagues contend that the increase was not caused by heightened sex drive but by increased sex appeal.

Does this mean that if we can bottle our chemistry and dole it out in the future, the additive will change the way we fall in love? No, flowers and candlelight and sweet-nothings-in-the-ear will still be important, according to most accounts. We are a fickle species. When it comes to finding a mate (click for Dr. Cutler's book, Love Cycles), we are swayed by culture, pushed by family and locked into traditions. In many places across the globe, people even have their mates chosen for them, pheromones be damned. We also sidestep biology by washing off our body odors and any pheromones or diluting them with soap and perfume.

Perhaps in the future we will be able to better control the messy process of the mating dance with a touch of something that makes us especially appealing to others. That way we could concentrate on projecting the good points about our genetic constitutions and ensure the most biologically appropriate mate. Or more likely, being the smart and adventurous species that we are we’ll experiment with nature and splash on a dab of someone different each night – and find out exactly what the nose knows.


COMMENT FROM ATHENA INSTITUTE: Both Athena Pheromone 10:13tm for women and Athena Pheromone 10Xtm for men are cosmetics that can increase your attractiveness to the opposite sex. Neither product is an “aphrodisiac.”

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