The Secrets Behind Scents – Pheromones Explained
Ever find yourself strangely attracted to someone, even though they aren’t your type? Get a whiff of a smell that reminds you of a past lover? Or maybe a certain smell reminds you of a vacation, loved one, or even a movie? One of the more underrated senses – scent – has a way to “trick” your brain in ways you may not be aware of – pheromones.
A quick biology lesson to those who may have been too busy swooning over their classmates to pay attention to this anatomy fact – the part of the brain that handles scent is right smack in the middle of the portion of the brain that takes care of memories. The olfactory bulb (the scent center) is part of the limbic system, which is in charge of memory, among other things. The scent part of the brain also is connected with the amygdala – an emotion processing center and the hippocampus – which takes care of associative learning. What this means is that scent can activate all these parts of your noggin that are connected with making memories. This is why the smell of chlorine in a dishwasher soap can trigger thoughts of that hot lifeguard you used to see at swimming practice, or a particular perfume will bring back memories of a vacation you took with a loved one who wore the same one.
So how do pheromones fit into all of this? The smell of pheromones not only bring back those scent related memories, they also play on your primal level of attraction. Unlike perfumes and other environmental smells, pheromones are chemicals that are released from the body in order to signal your ability to reproduce. They aren’t smells in the usual scenes of the word – you can’t “smell” them, but they are processed by the nose and the scent part of the brain. When your brain determines that the person you are smelling is ready for reproduction, you may become more attracted to them. This is why some perfume manufacturers have started adding pheromones to their products – in order to make you seem more attractive.
Pheromones also have some interesting effects that don’t quite fit into the “come and get me, I’m attractive” world. If a person’s pheromone profile is similar to your own, your brain won’t trigger that “attraction” as a protection from keeping the gene pool too tight. Your body wants biological diversity! They’re also responsible for the phenomenon of a group of women’s menstrual cycle syncing when they are in close proximity for a long period of time, and part of the reason that an infant child will turn their head to their mother’s breast and not those of strangers.
image is a copyrighted photo of the models