How Pheromone Signals Work

You may not speak up until the pheromonal signal has gone first to your VNO and then to your hypothalamus. Only then can your thinking brain intervene and help guide your judgments and decisions about other people.

To illustrate, let’s suppose that a man and a woman meet for the first time at a party. Because they are standing close to each other, they will unknowingly exchange pheromones. The pheromones will travel to the chemosensory receptor sites on the VNOs of both the man and the woman, thereby sending chemical (pheromonal) information to their brains. This information, processed subconsciously, registers as the immediate response—a crucial part of the often-talked-about first impression. If a man and a woman each experience mutually positive first impressions, their feelings—the figurative “green light” of the situation—will foster continued conversation and, perhaps, expressions of mutual interest. The man and the woman will proceed to learn more about each other

As their interaction advances past the introductory stage, their other senses will become more involved. The man may love the woman’s pheromones but be turned off by the way she dresses, or, in other words, by what his eyes tell him. The woman may also love the man’s pheromones but be unimpressed by the tone of his voice, an impression transmitted through her ears. What this means is that pheromones and the sixth sense will not guarantee that a relationship or a friendship will survive the input of the other senses.

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What pheromones do tell us is whether the stranger with whom we are shaking hands is at “first sniff” acceptable to us on a subconscious level.

Nevertheless, we all have heard stories about couples who claim to have fallen in love within minutes of meeting. We define this as love at first sight, but maybe it’s more appropriate to call it overall sensory approval at first sight. When attraction meshes on all sensory levels, it’s as if we are being told, sometimes rather blatantly, that our senses have come together to applaud the person in question. How might across-the-board sensory approval occur? If the people are in physical proximity,then the pheromone attraction will become stronger.

The first step of attraction could very well be pheromonal communication, in which the sixth sense dispatches its signals to the hypothalamus via the VNO. The other senses would then follow suit. (She is beautiful and smells wonderful. He has a deep, sexy voice and strong arms.)

We cannot say exactly how the six senses participate in a first meeting or in which order they offer up comment. Perhaps the sense of smell is one of the first to register, telling us whether the scent of the person standing in front of us is appealing or repugnant. Maybe visual cues strike first, forcing us to zero in on the way the person looks. Maybe a touch from the other person—a quick tap on the arm or a brush of fingers against the wrist—feels surprisingly wonderful and lays the foundation for further sensory appreciation. However, some scientists studying human pheromones believe the sixth sense is the one that kicks in first, even before the mercurial sense of smell, when two people are face-to-face. Says pheromone researcher Louis Monti-Bloch, “Underlying all your impressions of the person is your swift and subconscious impression of his or her pheromones.

Sensory Navigation

Humans are lucky. We possess more than enough sensory machinery to guide us through life. Eighteenth-century French philosopher Etienne Bonnot de Condillac, writing in Traité des sensations, stated that the human ability of cognition is related directly to our sensory setup and the messages the senses send to the brain. Without our senses, he believed, we could not perform even the simplest of tasks and would be unable to reason at the most basic level. We empathize with people who lose one of their senses because we can imagine the deprivation that would result. How could we possibly navigate through the world without all our senses intact? Aristotle believed that touch was the one sense essential to an evening of sex.

Mind Explained: An Owner’s Guide to the Mysteries of the Mind

“Each neuron can have tens of thousands of links with other neurons. The number of possible routes for nerve signals through this vast maze defies contemplation.”

The main parts of the brain are the brain stem, the cerebellum (responsible for coordinating movement), and the cerebrum. The brain is divided into two bilaterally symmetric halves, or hemispheres, which are conjoined by the corpus callosum. Each half contains four lobes and is covered with the wrinkled external layer of the cerebral cortex, which is about 2 millimeters thick and about 11/2 meters in total surface area.

The brain stem is one of the oldest parts of the brain, the region that developed and grew before the overlying cortex (cortex is derived from the Latin word meaning bark). Because it is the seat of our autonomic bodily functions and the originating point for spinal nerves, the brain stem is truly the core of the central nervous system. It gives us our basic abilities and directs us at a subconscious level.

The medulla oblongata extends from the spinal cord in a kind of bulb formation that sits at the base of the skull. It regulates the activity of the blood vessels and the heart, as well as respiration and other autonomic activities. Other important brain structures are the pituitary gland, a small, oval endocrine gland attached to the base of the brain and whose secretions help control the other endocrine glands and influence growth, metabolism, and maturation, and the hippocampus, which has a central role in memory.

With the exception of the sense of smell, the senses are regulated by the thalamus. The thalamus acts as a processing center for the millions of messages, transmitted via nerve signals delivered by the sense organs, that bombard the brain constantly. Once sensory signals have passed through the thalamus,they are routed to the cerebral cortex, which taps into our consciousness and allows us to give the sensory nerve impulse: I see a sunset, I taste a banana. Smell, one of the most primitive of the six senses (as primitive, we suppose, as the sixth sense), sends its signals directly to the subconscious part.

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