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Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Nuts and Bolts: the scent of love.

    So why are you wearing that perfume?
Is it just to cover up the smell of your sweat?
Well, assuming you aren't a complete stranger to soap, it surely can't be that. It must be because you believe that smelling of flowers or weasel secretions (or, in the case of adolescent males, industrial-power toilet cleaner) will make you...

...what? More powerful? More lovable? Safer?
It's possible that some perfumes have an insect-repellent quality, but what we're mostly trying to do with the various pongs we apply to ourselves is surely to make ourselves even lovelier.
But does it work?
Well, until very recently no one could prove it one way or the other, but now some research done by Wallrabenstein, Gerber, Rasche, Croy, Kurtenbach, Hummel and Hatt from the Ruhr-Universität Bochum in Germany and published in the journal NeuroImage has looked into the brains of women treated to a whiff of hedione (a substance found in many perfumes, including Eau Sauvage, First, Chamade, Chanel no. 19, L'Eau d'Issey, Angel, Blush, Paco, and CKOne) and found it does indeed excite their nasal membranes, and from there it goes on to excite the bits of the brain linked to them.
Basically, a whiff of Eau Sauvage triggers a pulse of delight in the hypothalamus.
Why does it do so? Well, it seems a bit odd, and the researchers are currently searching for something with an effect like hedione that occurs naturally in human bodily secretions. As Professor Hatt says, with the help of that sort of substance humans could communicate lovingly with each other. 
So there we are. We humans are cleverer than we thought: we can converse in smells.
Before we get above ourselves, though, we must remember that we're nowhere near as clever as a male luna moth, which can detect the scent of a desirable female over six miles away.
Gosh, that'd lead to some traffic jams, wouldn't it.
Thing To Do Today: smell someone. But do try to be scientific about it. The name hedione (methyl dihydro-jasmonate) is derived from the Greek hēdonē which means pleasure. 

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