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Vitam Horm. 2010;83:1-23. doi: 10.1016/S0083-6729(10)83001-8.

Functional neuronal processing of human body odors.

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  • 1Monell Chemical Senses Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.


Body odors carry informational cues of great importance for individuals across a wide range of species, and signals hidden within the body odor cocktail are known to regulate several key behaviors in animals. For a long time, the notion that humans may be among these species has been dismissed. We now know, however, that each human has a unique odor signature that carries information related to his or her genetic makeup, as well as information about personal environmental variables, such as diet and hygiene. Although a substantial number of studies have investigated the behavioral effects of body odors, only a handful have studied central processing. Recent studies have, however, demonstrated that the human brain responds to fear signals hidden within the body odor cocktail, is able to extract kin specific signals, and processes body odors differently than other perceptually similar odors. In this chapter, we provide an overview of the current knowledge of how the human brain processes body odors and the potential importance these signals have for us in everyday life.

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