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Chem Senses. 2001 May;26(4):433-45.

Human vomeronasal organ function: a critical review of best and worst cases.

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Department of Biological Science, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL 32306-4340, USA.


The human vomeronasal organ (VNO) has been the subject of some interest in the scientific literature and of considerable speculation in the popular science literature. A function for the human VNO has been both dismissed with ridicule and averred with conviction. This question of VNO function has been needlessly tied to the separate question of whether there is any place for pheromone communication among humans, a topic that is itself bogged down in conflicting definitions. This review is an attempt to weigh the evidence for and against human VNO function, to deconvolve that question from the question of pheromone communication and finally to provide a working definition of 'pheromone'. Further experimental work is required to resolve the conflicting evidence for and against human VNO function but chemical communication does appear to occur among humans. However, several examples reported in the literature do not meet the proposed definition for communication by pheromones: 'chemical substances released by one member of a species as communication with another member, to their mutual benefit'.

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