Homosexual men’s response to sweat and urine smells

Source: PNAS – Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
9 May 2005

NEUROSCIENCE
Brain response to putative pheromones in homosexual men

Ivanka Savic, Hans Berglund, and Per Lindström

Departments of *Clinical Neuroscience and Medicine, Karolinska University Hospital, 171 76 Stockholm, Sweden; and Department of Neuroscience, Center for Gender-Related Medicine, Karolinska Institute, 171 77 Stockholm, Sweden

Edited by Jan-Åke Gustafsson, Karolinska Institute, Huddinge, Sweden, and approved April 4, 2005 (received for review October 27, 2004)

ABSTRACT

The testosterone derivative 4,16-androstadien-3-one (AND) and the estrogen-like steroid estra-1,3,5(10),16-tetraen-3-ol (EST) are candidate compounds for human pheromones. AND is detected primarily in male sweat, whereas EST has been found in female urine. In a previous positron emission tomography study, we found that smelling AND and EST activated regions covering sexually dimorphic nuclei of the anterior hypothalamus, and that this activation was differentiated with respect to sex and compound. In the present study, the pattern of activation induced by AND and EST was compared among homosexual men, heterosexual men, and heterosexual women. In contrast to heterosexual men, and in congruence with heterosexual women, homosexual men displayed hypothalamic activation in response to AND. Maximal activation was observed in the medial preoptic area/anterior hypothalamus, which, according to animal studies, is highly involved in sexual behavior. As opposed to putative pheromones, common odors were processed similarly in all three groups of subjects and engaged only the olfactory brain (amygdala, piriform, orbitofrontal, and insular cortex). These findings show that our brain reacts differently to the two putative pheromones compared with common odors, and suggest a link between sexual orientation and hypothalamic neuronal processes.

Editor’s note: Only the abstract is archived here. Go to the link for the full paper.

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