Current Issues in the Study of Androstenes in Human Chemosignaling

Those who are interested in the latest research might be interested in the full text of this journal article / book chapter.

Here is some dialogue between me and a correpondent:

Correspondent: The review makes a pretty good case for androstadienone. Androstenone the obvious one to be left out of the mix, unless you want women to sit in a particular chair. The proven ingredients seem to be Androstadienone, Androstenol, Androsterone and no androstenone  Yet the whole pheromone industry sells the vast majority of products on androstenone content with claims of proven research.

JVK: ormally, I would not put much faith in the impression I got from one article, but this review is much more comprehensive than most, and I did not detect any bias, which is apparent in the writings from other groups with research interests — even mine. I can speculate that this group has studies in progress, perhaps of androstadienone, but I’ve also discussed replication of our results with them (i.e., with Lenochova and Havlicek), and have already sent the mixture of chemicals from our studies to Oberzaucher and Grammer for attempted replication.

That’s part of what is expected to happen in the scientific community. We are definitely on to something, and others become interested when they see our work presented. For example: Lenochova, P. Havlicek, J. Oberzaucher, E. Grammer, K. (2008) Do perfumes mask or interact with body odour? International Society for Human Ethology. Bologna, Italy. July 13 – 17.

Next, we may see androstadienone fall out of favor, because no one has shown that it has any behavioral affect. Like androstenone, however, it has been heavily marketed and conceptualized as a human pheromone. However, it’s species specificity and appropriate use of physiological rather than supraphysiological amounts for empirical testing has not been addressed except in the critical review by Wysocki and Preti.

I think that I mentioned the issue of non-disclosure in another post. If you don’t disclose methods and the chemicals you’re testing, you don’t present results at conferences, which is the only way your scientifically-minded peers can evaluate your research. If there is scientific support for the use of androstenone, I haven’t seen it presented at the conferences I’ve attended.

Reports that androstadienone has a similar odor to androstenone made me ask why so many groups are testing it. The answer, a few years ago, was because everyone else is. To their credit, however, other researchers are likely to be influenced by the claims from those who use commercial products, as we all are. The problem then becomes how to properly design a study that could show a true affect, if any is to be found.

Background: In April of 2007 my colleagues and I reported effects of menstrual cycle phase and affects of the mixture of chemicals used in my Scent of Eros product for men on women’s flirtatious behavior. see #492 at http://www.achems.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageid=3462

In July of 2008 a group using a similar study design reported an effect of menstrual cycle phase on behavior, but found no affect of androstadienone on women’s flirtatious behavior. See # 511 at http://www.achems.org/files/public/ISOTABSTRACT.pdf

Johan Lundstrom, a member of the 2008 group above, had suggested to me in 2007 that we use sandalwood odor as an odor-masking control in a replication attempt. We used sandalwood, and replicated our results and presented our findings at the Society for Neuroscience in November of 2008, and at another conferences in April of 2009 see #290 http://www.achems.org/files/public/2009PROGRAMFINAL.pdf In our replication, we found an increase in women’s ratings of their attraction.

To my knowledge, no other researcher or group of researchers has successfully shown an affect on behavior either of an individual putative human pheromone, or of a mixture of human pheromones like those found in the Scent of Eros for men product (and also found in The Mind’s Eyes product for men.) Studies that have previously reported behavioral affects, tend to equate effects on brain activation, physiology, or mood with behavior, or to make claims for behavioral affects that have been debunked after review of their statistical analysis.

Our study design and results are based on four publications, two of which have won awards. One publication is a book with 1995 and 2002 editions. One is a 1996 journal article in Hormones and Behavior: One is a 2001 journal article in Neuroendocrinology Letters. And one is a 2006 journal article in the Journal of Psychology and Human Sexuality and 2007 book chapter in the Handbook of the Evolution of Human Sexuality.

Three of the five publications have the words “Human Pheromones” in the title. Researchers who claim there are no human pheromones may want to familiarize themselves with the concept, and minimally update themselves on the latest literature, most of which can be found here at Pheromones.com (a likely place to look for information on human pheromones).