Psychological effects of musky compounds: comparison of androstadienone with androstenol and muscone

Horm Behav. 2002 Nov;42(3):274-83. doi: 10.1006/hbeh.2002.1826.


Previously, we have shown that delta4,16-androstadien-3-one modulates psychological state, reducing negative mood and increasing positive mood (Jacob and McClintock, 2000; Jacob et al., 2001a). In order to determine whether similar musky compounds also produce these effects, we compared the effects of androstadienone to those of androstenol and muscone, measuring the psychological states of 37 participants. Androstenol and muscone were chosen because they too have a musky odor at high concentrations, while androstenol is a steroid like androstadienone and muscone is not. In a controlled laboratory setting, we conducted a double-blind, within-subject, repeated-measures experiment counterbalanced for order of presentation. Under each participant's nose, a nanomolar amount of each compound was presented, masked by clove oil to minimize perceptible olfactory differences. Participants completed a baseline psychological battery and twice again at 25-min intervals after exposure. Androstadienone's effects on psychological state were unique in comparison with those of androstenol and with muscone. Exposure through passive inhalation, rather than dermal contact, was sufficient for these effects. Although this is additional evidence that androstadienone may be a pheromone, it is yet to be determined whether humans exude concentrations into the air adequate for social communication or process this chemical information within natural social contexts.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Inhalation
  • Adult
  • Affect / drug effects*
  • Androstenedione / analogs & derivatives*
  • Androstenedione / pharmacology*
  • Androstenols / administration & dosage
  • Androstenols / pharmacology*
  • Confusion / chemically induced
  • Confusion / psychology
  • Cycloparaffins / administration & dosage
  • Cycloparaffins / pharmacology*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Injections, Intradermal
  • Male
  • Menstrual Cycle / physiology
  • Odorants
  • Perfume
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Smell / physiology*


  • Androstenols
  • Cycloparaffins
  • Perfume
  • Androstenedione
  • muscone