Archive for the ‘S is for Sensethyself’ Category

Yes, You Really Can Smell Fear

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010

Photo via flickr by mawel

“The smell of fear” turns out to have a foundation in science. All sweat smells—and some sweat screams anxiety to the world, according to a study published in June in PLoS One. “The chemical transfer of anxiety may cause a feeling of discomfort in the perceiver. It’s like a sixth sense,” says psychologist Bettina Pause of the University of Düsseldorf in Germany, one of the authors of the paper. Pause and her colleagues collected sweat from 49 students at two times—right before a university exam and during exercise. The researchers then had other students sniff the samples and scanned their brains with fMRI, which registers activity. Sniffers’ brains responded to sweat made during an anxious period differently from sweat produced through physical exertion. In humans, anxious sweat activates a cluster of brain areas known to be involved in empathy. “That suggests,” Pause says, “that anxiety—and maybe also other emotions—can be chemically transferred between people.”

via Discover Magazine

In a conversation with Sputnik Observatory, Bettina Pause explains how our emotional state triggers the apocrine glands responsible for the body odor:

The skin is actually a supporting organ for microorganisms, for example. There are a lot of glands in the body which produce some chemicals which are odorless. And the odor has to be produced by the bacteria from these substances. And, of course, the skin gives the environment for the bacteria. And without bacteria, no body odor – and without skin, no body odor. There are glands, of course, across the whole body, but there are some so-called apocrine glands which are probably more responsible for the production of body odors, of the quality of body odors, than the so-called eccrine glands. The eccrine glands only produce water for your temperature balance. That you produce more water, if you’re hot.

The apocrine glands, there is a very complex mixture of substances from the apocrine glands, and people are still busy searching for very certain or special substances which might be responsible for the body odor. And this research is not really very successful. Where you have got the most successful results in human research is when you present the whole body odor mixture as a complex. Well, the apocrine glands, their production is dependent again on your emotional state. They are more productive if you are in an emotional arousing state and less productive when you just don’t care about the situation. The apocrine glands are, for example, strongly in the axillary area or also in the genital areas. And we think that important body odor signals are produced by the axillary glands.

S is for Sensethyself

Saturday, May 9th, 2009

The olfactory bubble is the space that surrounds each person’s body. It is the space filled with one’s scent of self. Like a fingerprint, studies show that every individual is born with their own unique, distinct scent based on the immunogenetic system of the body, the system that tells immune cells what is the self, and what is the non-self. Although this fact is as controversial in the fragrance world as Luca Turin’s suggestion that receptors are cued by the vibrational frequency of odor molecules rather than the accepted theory of lock-and-key, already DARPA has designed “The Unique Signature Detection Project” for the purpose of identifying terrorists stating that scent-identification is not only less invasive, but as effective as retinal scans and fingerprinting. Researchers are also hopeful that scent signatures will be leveraged for health and medical diagnosis, as well as used to identify compatible immune systems for organ transplantation. Moreover, operating as a sensorial feedback loop, it is suggested that a person’s body odor not only has the power to influence their own hormonal system, but the hormonal system of another. In fact, scientists now suspect that pheromones, historically perceived as legitimate folly, may nonetheless be plausible, as studies show that the ability to actually smell love is influenced by the MHC gene of the body, a large gene family that plays a role in the immune system and reproductive success. Whether or not couples will stand in front of an odor-meter at CVS to validate their love is yet to be seen, however it’s safe to say that in the future, one’s true personal body odor will be considered a status symbol, a sign of a healthy, happy and beautiful body.