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Yes, Virginia, There Is a Pheromone

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The pheromone they studied is a steroid, derived from the male sex hormone testosterone. It exists most prominently on the male skin surface and body hair. Before and after they were given the chemical, the women were asked a battery of questions about their feelings, moods, and personality. Their breath and heart rates, temperature, heartbeat, and other bodily signs were also measured.

The chemical was applied directly to the VNOs of the research subjects through a small tube. One second of exposure was enough to produce a response. Researchers found that the women became less nervous and tense, and had fewer negative feelings, when the pheromone was applied. They concluded that the substance had the ability to change human behavior and was therefore a pheromone.

Other researchers have laid claim to nailing down the existence of pheromones, most notably Martha McClintock, a researcher at the University of Chicago. She recently published a study on the mood-altering effect of two steroids, androstadienone and estratetaene. So what's new about Berliner's work?

In one respect, he says, nothing. Berliner tells WebMD that he and his colleagues made some of these discoveries as much as 10 years ago. The key was the body's use of the VNO as a pathway for pheromones. That, Berliner says, he wanted to keep "quiet."

"Studies have been going on for many years, but it's just now being published because we had to have the patents," Berliner tells WebMD.

Is there a pheromone love potion in the pipeline? Berliner says they're looking. Because the part of the human brain affected by the chemical is the center for desire, "it won't be a pill that produces erection; it's going to be a spray that just makes you desire, nothing more than that."

As for androstadienone in particular, there's "no sexual effect, not at all. Anybody claiming that this pheromone is sexually attractive is a fake, a fraud. However, it can make a woman feel less negative, and there's no question the negativity goes way down, and that helps a lot in the communication between a man and a woman," Berliner tells WebMD.

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