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Trends Neurosci. 2006 Jan;29(1):1-7. Epub 2005 Nov 3.

Is the vomeronasal system really specialized for detecting pheromones?

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  • 1Department of Zoology, 203 Natural Sciences Building, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824, USA.


Many academics, clinicians and lay readers of science incorrectly assume that vomeronasal processing is equivalent to pheromone processing. We review the abundant data concerning the roles of both the olfactory and the vomeronasal systems in the processing of both pheromones and other odorants, demonstrating that this "equivalency hypothesis" is untenable. This conclusion has important implications for the design and interpretation of experiments examining vomeronasal and olfactory system function. We describe some of the problems that arise from assuming that this equivalency holds. Two alternative hypotheses have been offered, but the available data do not enable us to accept or reject either one. Perhaps no single functional description can adequately characterize the role of the vomeronasal system.

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