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Physiol Behav. 2009 May 25;97(2):213-28. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2009.02.032. Epub 2009 Mar 9.

Sex differences and reproductive hormone influences on human odor perception.

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Smell & Taste Center, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia PA 19104, USA.

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  • Physiol Behav. 2009 Oct 19;98(4):517.


The question of whether men and women differ in their ability to smell has been the topic of scientific investigation for over a hundred years. Although conflicting findings abound, most studies suggest that, for at least some odorants, women outperform men on tests of odor detection, identification, discrimination, and memory. Most functional imaging and electrophysiological studies similarly imply that, when sex differences are present, they favor women. In this review we examine what is known about sex-related alterations in human smell function, including influences of the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, gonadectomy, and hormone replacement therapy on a range of olfactory measures. We conclude that the relationship between reproductive hormones and human olfactory function is complex and that simple associations between circulating levels of gonadal hormones and measures of olfactory function are rarely present.

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