By Dr. Elena Koles, MD, PhD
How does a woman attract a man and how does a man attract a woman? This has been a central question since men have been looking at women and vice-versa. Contrary to what people might think, the main role here is not vision or hearing, but a sense of smell. In reality, smell is a very important and valuable channel of communication that most of us ignore.
This latter statement is true for humans, insects and animals as well. Consider, for example, the case of the butterfly. Every experienced biologist knows that male and female butterflies recognize each other and do it easily. Similarly, every creature, from the smallest insect to the largest elephant, has a special organ in the nose called the vomeronasal organ (or VNO). It can measure as little as one millimeter in diameter in some animals, while in the case of the butterfly allows a male to sense its mate miles away.
The VNO system does not detect smells per se, but rather specific chemicals called pheromones. Recent research shows that pheromones may be able to work even without interacting with the VNO. Special receptors inform the brain about tiny quantities of pheromones that are counted with twelve zeroes after the decimal point. This microscopic part of the milligram is not detected by sophisticated and comprehensive modern equipment, but the noses of animals do it easily.
Pheromones are small organic molecules known as steroids, which act as a form of chemical communication between two animals of the same species. The first pheromone, discovered in 1956, was a sex attractant releaser pheromone for silkworm moths, which causes male moths to beat their wings rapidly in a mating "flutter dance". This eliciting of specific behavior has not been demonstrated in more complex animals like humans, but some readers would suggest that the types of dancing seen in various clubs is a human form of the flutter dance.
Pheromones are typically secreted onto the skin or hair, and then travel through the air and have an effect when inhaled. Very tiny amounts of pheromones can have enormous effects. Numerous different types of pheromones have been identified, each with specific function. The main one is to attract a sexual partner. Not every human secrets pheromones. It is estimated that only one in ten males has pheromones that make him attractive to females. This mystical substance of sexuality, adrosterone,is synthesized by adrenal glands and makes males stronger. Interestingly, females don’t realize why they prefer some males and ignore others. They just feel it by their skin! Women also respond to androstenone differently at different times of the month. Some studies have shown that women have a major response to androstenone during times of ovulation when they are ready for fertilization.
Women also secrete pheromones called copulins, which are composed of aromatic compounds found in vaginal secretions. Blondes and redheads are most successful in this regard, and this fact may underlie the well-known statement that “gentlemen prefer blondes”.
Pheromones have many functions. For example, information pheromones convey information about the individual producing the pheromones to the individual receiving them. Animals use them for marking their territory, to gather in packs or flocks, and to inform others about coming danger. Pheromones can have other effects, such as producing feelings of calmness, happiness, stimulation, or if misused, anxiety.
A little newborn immediately recognize its mother and knows where her milk is. Releaser pheromones produce specific behavior patterns, such as sexual attraction, avoidance, etc. With a help of pheromones, nature protects some but not all of its creatures from incest.
Of course, these magic chemicals are also very attractive for makers of perfume. It has been known for ages that females are sensitive to miscues. Today it is known that miscues reminds us of specific pheromones. So, one could ask the question, “Could an expensive perfume push one to fall into a fit of passion for a wooden manikin without love?”
The modern chemical industry is working hard to create stronger pheromones to help others to see you as an attractive, high-status, youthful, or easy to talk to person. Synthetic pheromones can facilitate conversations, interest and positive feelings. All of these can increase attractiveness.
Formulas that only include androstenone don’t take advantage of the unique and powerful effects of other pheromones. Androstenol, for example, has been shown to elevate luteinizing hormone in women who are exposed to it, and luteinizing hormone is an indicator of sexual desire. Androstenone also is not the best pheromone for women to use if they want to attract men, although small amounts can be useful for creating an aura of power. A word of caution is useful at this point, however. In people who already produce a lot of their own pheromones or who actually are powerful and dominant, adding more pheromones is likely to make them seem overbearing and threatening rather than more attractive.
No evidence suggests the existence of human releaser-pheromones which elicit specific behaviors and control in terms of other people. On the other hand, there is ample evidence for the effectiveness of human information pheromones and mood-affecting pheromones. In summary, we can say that pheromones affect people in a positive or negative way and the same pheromone can case a positive or negative reaction depending on how much of it is used! This is why pheromones must always be used with care.
To contact Dr. Kales: www.u-ok.net
UOK Medical Center: 847-291-0900