Human Pheromones Psychological and Neurological Modulation of a Putative Human Pheromone

University dissertation from Uppsala : Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis

Abstract: The notion that humans have specialized chemicals used for communication between conspecifics, so-called pheromones, has attracted much attention and discussion. This thesis demonstrates in four separate studies that a human endogenous steroidal compound that is abundant in male sweat, androstadienone, affects women in several ways that differ to that of common odors. Specifically, androstadienone was found in Study I to have unique psychophysical characteristics in that the sensitivity distribution of the odor is bimodal with a smaller subpopulation consisting of highly sensitive individuals. Trigeminal mediation of this bimodality was experimentally excluded. Moreover, Study II demonstrated that women’s cortical activation of androstadienone exposure was found to differ to that of common odorants in that androstadienone was processed faster than two perceptually similar control odors. It was further demonstrated that a non-detectable amount of androstadienone can reliably modulate both mood and physiology in women (Study III & IV); in particular mood referring to attention processes. Study IV showed that androstadienone-induced mood changes in heterosexual women were only evident when the experiment was administered by an experimenter of different sex. The combined results from these studies suggest that androstadienone serves as a human modulator pheromone that guides our behavior by inducing subtle changes in higher cognitive processes in relation to the ecological context at hand. A new definition of human pheromones is proposed and discussed in relation to the obtained results.