Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

Human Pheromone Discovered

Researchers at the University of California at Berkeley found that women who sniffed androstadienone (pictured, left), a chemical found in male sweat, experienced elevated levels of cortisol, an important hormone, along with higher sexual arousal, faster heart rate and other effects.

Androstadienone is a metabolite of testosterone that is found in male sweat as well as in saliva and semen. It smells somewhat musky.

This study compared the responses of 48 heterosexual women, with an average age of 21, to baking yeast, but found that yeast did not trigger any effects. They took approximately 20 sniffs from a jar of androstadienone or yeast and discovered that cortisol levels increased dramatically within 15 minutes and stayed elevated for up to an hour in the women who smelled androstadienone. Consistent with previous research, the androstadienone-sniffing women reported improved mood, higher sexual arousal, and had increased blood pressure, heart rate and breathing.

This was the first time that smelling a specific chemical secreted by people was shown to affect hormonal levels, the researchers said.

The study was published this week in the Journal of Neuroscience.

Cited story.