Human chemosignals elicited from emotional states

Human chemosignals elicited from emotional states

S. Ghimenti, D. Biagini, T. Lomonaco, R. Fuoco, F. Di Francesco

Dipartimento di Chimica e Chimica Industriale, Università di Pisa, Pisa, Italy 

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In the animal kingdom most species secrete or excrete chemical factors that trigger a social response in members of the same species. Smell provides peculiar evolutionary advantages over vision and hearing, as it works even when other senses are impaired (e.g. in the dark or during sleep) and it allows obtaining information over long distances about the possible presence of a predator or a potential sexual partner. If olfactory communication is so important for animals, what about human race? As a social species, humans rely on social interaction for their well-being and survival: are we unconsciously using olfactory clues to select our social relationships, choose a partner or communicate emotions like pain, fear or happiness? Literature does not provide any definitive answer to such questions, but more and more hints are cumulating which seem to suggest the exchange of chemical messages among humans. The POTION project (Promoting social interaction through emotional body odours, FETPROACT-01-2018, Contract n° 824153) will investigate the nature of chemosignals and their sphere of influence on social interaction. The identification of human pheromones is impressively challenging. Probably such volatile or semivolatile chemicals are released at very low concentration levels (pre-concentration step needed before analysis). Furthermore, these distinctive odours likely consist of a cocktail of multiple chemicals and the concentration pattern might be important. Finally, these odour components might belong to different chemical classes and have different properties, so that they may not be all detected with just a single method.

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