A putative social chemosignal elicits faster cortical responses than perceptually similar odorants

Neuroimage. 2006 May 1;30(4):1340-6. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2005.10.040. Epub 2006 Jan 18.


Social chemosignals, so-called pheromones, have recently attracted much attention in that effects on women's psychophysiology and cortical processing have been reported. We here tested the hypothesis that the human brain would process a putative social chemosignal, the endogenous steroid androstadienone, faster than other odorants with perceptually matched intensity and hedonic characteristics. Chemosensory event-related potentials (ERP) were recorded in healthy women. ERP analyses indicate that androstadienone was processed significantly faster than the control odorants. Androstadienone elicited shorter latencies for all recorded ERP components but most so for the late positivity. This finding indicates that androstadienone is processed differently than other related odorants, suggesting the possibility of a specific neuronal subsystem to the main olfactory pathway akin to the one previously reported in Old-world monkeys and emotional visual stimuli in humans.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Androstadienes*
  • Androsterone
  • Attention / physiology
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Chemoreceptor Cells / physiology*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Electroencephalography*
  • Evoked Potentials / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen Sulfide
  • Middle Aged
  • Motion Perception / physiology
  • Olfactory Pathways / physiology*
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology
  • Pheromones*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Psychophysics
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Sensory Thresholds
  • Smell / physiology*
  • Social Behavior*


  • Androstadienes
  • Pheromones
  • 4,16-androstadien-3-one
  • Androsterone
  • Hydrogen Sulfide