Friday, January 9, 2009

You want me - I can smell it.

ResearchBlogging.orgMost of us women can tell if a guy is 'into us'. We pick up on a vasy array of non-verbal cues, not the mention the ever-obvious verbal ones. But I wouldn't say I can smell sexual interest- would you? Probably not. But, as it turns out, women's brains can distinguish the difference between sweat from a man who is aroused and one that isn't, according to fresh research published in the Journal of Neuroscience

Is he hot or horny?
A woman's brain knows.

Scientists from Rice University used fMRI scans to take a look at women's brains while they processed four different smells. The first was sweat from aroused men. The second was sweat from the same men when not aroused. The third was a control with PSP, a sex hormone which heightens arousal in women, matched to previously found levels in aroused sweat. The last was a negative control with a neutral compound that is in sweat, PEA. They wanted to know if PSP was the major sexual olfactory cue in sweat or if there was more being produced by the horny boys.

To make the study truly neutral, the women weren't informed as to what they were smelling. And, interestingly, few described the smells as human or sweaty. Some even described them as 'floral'. None of the women figured out they were smelling the sweat of aroused versus non-aroused men.

Well, I guess I should say none of the women consciously figured that out. However, their brains told a different story.

The fMRI scans showed that the women's right orbitofrontal cortex and the right fusiform regions significantly responded to the sexual sweat compared with the PEA baseline, the neutral sweat or PSP. Also, the PSP (the hormone they thought might be the signal) did not produce the same stimulus. Thus something else in the sweat of aroused guys turned on a specific response in the women's brains.

In other words, women's brains know the difference between a guy that's hot and bothered and one that isn't, even if they don't know it consciously. It makes me wonder if they'll soon be producing colognes that are designed to get a woman turned on - neurally, that is (none of this supposed pheromone crap). I mean, that's gotta be way better than a pick up line...

Since I went there, here's one for you to take home - it's my personal favorite:
"You know, the good thing about being a scientist is that I'm very good at mixing fluids."

W. Zhou, D. Chen (2008). Encoding Human Sexual Chemosensory Cues in the Orbitofrontal and Fusiform Cortices Journal of Neuroscience, 28 (53), 14416-14421 DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3148-08.2008


Anonymous said...

"It makes me wonder if they'll soon be producing colognes that are designed to get a woman turned on - neurally..."

Great idea and I'll buy a bottle as long as they name it "Sex Panther"

Paul Brown said...

I don't get it - what was wrong with the old method of telling if a guy is horny*?

*He is breathing.

Word ver: Carboban. Emitting too much CO2? Try new Carboban.

btarded mushroom head said...

You can't smell anyone because you are fat.

Anonymous said...

i dont know if women can tell when i'm horny , but i sure can smell when its that time of the month. wow no mater how you try to cover it up with perfume.

Anonymous said...

It smells like smegma.

Anonymous said...

So that's how they can always tell i was just looking at their boobs.

Margaret said...

Just loving your blog, Christie. I've only recently encountered it, but I've put it on my feed and linked it from my blog. Keep it up, please!

"Kingfish" Slaney Black said...

But I wouldn't say I can smell sexual interest- would you?

Really? I can smell it in women. Anonymous puts it crudely (but i sure can smell when its that time of the month) but there are subtle vaginal/sweat odors that we can pick up on. And contrary to the personal hygiene industry's propaganda, this is not always a bad thing.

I can also taste it in saliva - kissing a woman tastes different when she is into it.

"It makes me wonder if they'll soon be producing colognes that are designed to get a woman turned on - neurally..."

Been going on for centuries. Anything with musk, castoreum or (espcially) civet.

Staff said...

Interesting research, but definitely pretty heteronormative. Why aren't we even asking the question of how other men respond to aroused men's sweat or how women respond to women's sweat when aroused? Saying that it doesn't fit in with hypotheses derived from evolutionary psychology/neuroscience is a bad response, as it stipulates an hypothesis as true without actually testing it. We take a lot for granted in this kind of research...

Christie Lynn said...

Staff: those are excellent points. I agree - proper research protocols should have looked at the other variables, such as the sweat of aroused women and being smelt by men, too. In fact, there would be plausible reason for all to smell arousal of everyone by everyone, evolutionarily speaking - competition, for example, is better used against those that are actually interested in your person of interest, so knowing who else getting turned on in the presence of your woman/man would be a bonus. Or if your partner is being aroused by someone else... in general. Indeed, good observation and good points.