Pheromones and their effect on women's mood and sexuality

Facts Views Vis Obgyn. 2013;5(3):189-95.


Pheromones are substances which are secreted to the outside by an individual and received by a second individual of the same species. Many examples exist in animals but their role in humans remains uncertain since adults have no functioning vomeronasal organ, which processes pheromone signals in animals. Yet pheromones can be detected by the olfactory system although humans under develop and underrate their smelling sense. Pheromones may be present in all bodily secretions but most attention has been geared toward axillary sweat which contains the odorous 16-androstenes. One of these steroidal compounds, androstadienone, is present at much higher concentrations in male sweat and can be detected by women, albeit with wide variation in sensitivity. Upper-lip application of a pharmacological dose of androstadienonein women results in improved mood and heightened focus - particularly to capture emotional information. A positive mood is known to facilitate women's sexual response, and -increased focus improves sexual satisfaction. Indeed, some studies showed a beneficial effect of androstadienone on sexual desire and arousal. However, these effects were dependent on the context of the experiment, for example, on the presence of a male attendant. Pheromones may also play a role in mate selection which is "disassortative" regarding the human leukocyte antigen (HLA)-genotype. Preliminary evidence suggests that exposure to androstadienone in women promotes attractiveness ratings of potential mates. In conclusion, some data indicate that 16-androstene pheromones, in particular androstadienone, play a beneficial role in women's mood, focus and sexual response, and perhaps also in mate selection.

Keywords: Androstadienone; mate selection; pheromones; sexual response.

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