Smelling Attraction

Pheromones have almost gained a mythological status in popular culture, thanks to the goat extract at the gas station or perfumes that supposedly uses pheromones to make you irresistible. (Side note: perfumes often use glandular excretions from other animals as one of their main ingredients.) But there is some credence to the layers of fantasy. Several tests have been conducted that provide good evidence that humans can indeed sense pheromones from other humans. But there is still the mystery of what the sensory organ is for pheromones. One theory is that cranial nerve zero is at least in part responsible for our responses to pheromones. This nerve is barely noticeable and often destroyed during dissection, which is why it is not included in many textbooks yet.
Scientists have even found this nerve in whales, an animal that, through evolution, has long lost its olfactory cranial nerves. This supports the idea that cranial nerve zero is separate from the olfactory system. But more importantly, it underlines an evolutionary importance of cranial nerve zero, withstanding millennia of evolution.

About the author

Ian Park

Ian graduated from Wesleyan University in May 2011 with a degree in Neuroscience and Behavior. In that same year, he was Director of Photography of a senior documentary thesis film at Wesleyan, which won first place. He recently acted as Director of Photography on a Clinique commercial for a competition--it won honorable mentions. He is currently working as a producer/director/editor of video and other digital content in Soho, NY, as well as working on a soon-to-be-released web series, "Postponed."

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