Send to

Choose Destination
Ann N Y Acad Sci. 1998 Nov 30;855:390-2.

On the nature of mammalian and human pheromones.

Author information

Department of Psychology, University of Chicago, Illinois 60637, USA.


Communication by chemical (pheromone) signals is important in many species, including mammals. Chemosensory and hormonal systems can interact in at least two ways: (i) chemosensory input, especially but not exclusively that through the vomeronasal organ, may elicit hormonal release, which, in turn, may facilitate behavioral or physiological responses; and (ii) hormones, especially steroids, may be essential for some responses to chemosensory, including vomeronasal, input. Recent, still controversial reports, suggest that chemosensory communication may occur in humans via a residual vomeronasal organ and that chemosensory/hormonal interactions also operate in humans. In this symposium these matters are examined critically. Johnston explores the concept of pheromone communication and suggests that the notion of a single-chemical 'magic bullet' irresistibly leading to a preprogrammed result is too simplistic despite documented examples of special stimuli acting via the vomeronasal organ. Meredith briefly reviews evidence for hormonal mediation of the effects of vomeronasal input; including a situation where vomeronasal and hormonal facilitation of a behavior appear to be interchangeable--but where vomeronasal input appears important only in inexperienced animals. Wood discusses evidence that the effectiveness of chemosensory input to particular brain nuclei depends critically on the simultaneous presence of a steroid hormone within the same nucleus. Monti-Bloch presents his evidence that steroids may act as gender-specific chemical signals in humans, exciting an electrical response from the residual human vomeronasal organ and affecting human hormone levels.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Wiley
Loading ...
Support Center