Researchers at the Ruhr-Universität Bochum and University of Dresden, Germany, say their work has demonstrated that the odorous substance Hedione, which has a fresh jasmine-magnolia scent – activates the putative pheromone receptor VN1R1, part of the human olfactory mechanism.
Further to this, the research team then demonstrated that the scent generates sex-specific activation patterns in the brain that do not occur in traditional fragrances.
Evidence of a different olfactory perception
"These results constitute compelling evidence that a pheromone effect different from normal olfactory perception indeed exists in humans," says scent researcher Dr Hanns Hatt.
The study results have been published in the Journal Neuroimage, and while serving as important for olfactory research because of the different perception, it could also prove to be a useful tool for fragrance experts as getting pheromone receptors right is a crucial element to success.
The researchers relied on genetic analysis to confirm the pheromone receptor’s existence in the human olfactory range, then transferred the genetic code for the receptor into cell cultures that were then used to demonstrate that Hedione activates the receptor.
The researchers then analyzed what happens in the brain when a person smells hedione, comparing the results to the effects triggered by the traditional floral fragrance phenylethyl alcohol.
The results showed that hedione activated brain areas in the limbic system – which are associated with memory, emotions and motivation - significantly more than the phenylethyl alcohol, the team claims.
Likewise, it also activated a specific hypothalamic region, which is associated with controlling sexual behavior, more strongly in women than in men.
Further research aims to dig deeper
"In the next stage, we want to find out which physiological and psychological parameters are affected when Hedione activates the pheromone receptor," explains Hatt.
"We have already launched the relevant studies. But we also have to search for scent molecules in bodily secretions, which resemble Hedione and activate the receptor. With its help, humans could actually communicate with each other."