How Do Pheromones Work?

So how are pheromones supposed to work in humans? And what are some good examples? Well, there are three proposed sources of pheromones and humans, and these are auxiliary steroids. These are produced in the testes, ovaries, and adrenal glands.

Some potential candidate molecules are androstedional, androstadienone, and androstenol. Some of the reports or the effects of these molecules have in behavior are the synchronization of menstrual cycles and women and increased perceived attractiveness of the opposite sex. Learn more at

There are vaginal aliphatic acids, sometimes called copulins because scientists are pretty clever, you know, and they’re found in the vaginal fluid of women in our proposed to be important for signaling ovulation. Lastly, there are stimulators of the vomeronasal organ or the VNO. Basically, any chemical that can stimulate the VNO, which we’ll talk about next.

Releaser Pheromones

releaser pheromonesWhen pheromones are released, they activate the vomeronasal organ or the VNO, an organ that’s connected to the olfactory bulb, the sensory organ for smelling located in the nose. The VNO contains receptors are activated by pheromones found in the air. These receptors are located on neurons, and send signals to the accessory olfactory bulb.

That just means it’s kind of an extra piece of your smelling system, which eventually projects to the amygdala, the bed nucleus of the stria term analysis, and the hypothalamus. The fact that it sends information to these three areas is important for understanding how pheromones influence behavior.

The amygdala does a lot of things, but one of the things that it’s most well known for is processing emotional information in the hypothalamus which is the hormone center of the brain. The first step in the production of stress hormones, sex hormones, and all sorts of interesting bodily functions.

In animal studies, if you remove the VNO, you can notice several distinct behavioral changes, things like reduced male intrasexual aggression, reduced puberty delay and reduced sexual responding. A few other pheromone pathways have been proposed, such as the terminal nerves or the trigeminal nerves, but little evidence for that has been found so far.

So what’s the evidence that pheromones actually work in humans?

Well, we’ll start by the detailing out some of the more famous studies. Learn more at

The McClintock effect, more popularly known as menstrual synchrony, was first discovered by Martha McClintock in 1971. Get a bunch of women to live together, and their menstrual cycles begin to adopt similar timeframes.

Several other studies have examined the phenomena since then and we’ll many theories exist as to why this happens the most popular one is, of course, auxiliary pheromones. and draws. Androstenedione is an auxiliary steroid that supposedly acts as a pheromone in humans and some research has been done showing that it not only affects human psychology but it also affects human brain function.

Giving isolated androstenedione to women has been shown to activate brain areas such as the limbic association cortex, the fusiform gyrus, thalamus, and the hypothalamus and changes how attractive men are perceived to be by these women. Other research has found similar results that exposing men and women to a proposed pheromone compound can activate certain areas of the brains.

Finally, one major theory for pheromone use in communication is something called genetic histocompatibility, which basically means I have a unique set of genes. You have a unique set of genes, but inbreeding is bad and so maybe you can tell what types of genes I have through odors.


Some research has shown that women prefer the sense of men who are more genetically dissimilar to them. Despite these studies, the role of pheromones and human behavior has remained controversial and not just because it’s mostly about sex. I’ll detail out some of the theoretical, methodological and physical complications surrounding pheromone research in future articles.