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PNI: sexual attraction

Jim Kohl jkohl at vegas.infi.net
Thu Feb 29 03:57:14 EST 1996

In article 
<Pine.PMDF.3.91.960228235055.113345B-100000 at BIOMED.MED.YALE.EDU>, 
yhadeish at BIOMED.MED.YALE.EDU says...

>...it's my 
>understanding that olfactory cues are critical to sexual attraction in 
>mammalian systems as well as in the insect systems wherein pheromones 
>were originally identified (I think pheromones were first identified in 
>insects--- apologies, Dr. Ruth!)--- but what does this have to do with 
>the immune system?

Both the psychoneuroendocrinology and the psychoneuroimmunology of sexual 
attraction and reproductive sexual behavior seem to center on aspects of 
the pheromonal activation of genes in gonadotropin-releasing hormone 
(GnRH) neurosecretory neurons. This, because hypothalamic GnRH 
pulsatility has numerous effects on both the 
hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal 
axes, and especially on steroidogenesis--as it is related to behavior. (A 
fraction of mammalian GnRH also appears to have direct effects on 

Are we saying that the olfactory system must use 
>something like VD(J) recombination to generate the diversity of 
>chemosensory receptors necessary to differentiate between the diversity 
>of odor cues?  I've heard such things discussed from time to time.  Or 
>are we ignoring the mechanistic details and just throwing these ideas 
>there to see what kinds of ideas, what kinds of criticisms they invoked?

I have tossed the idea of pheromonal activation of genes in GnRH 
neurosecretory cells of the brain, the most important of organs involved 
in the organ systems that modulate behavior and attempted to establish a 
clear link between genetic constitution (nature) and the 
social-environment (nurture). Few criticisms have come forth. The most 
likely criticism would be derived from another model in which the 
activation of genes in GnRH neurosecretory neurons by some other form of 
social-environmental stimuli could be shown. Until other sensory stimuli, 
besides mammalian pheromones are shown either to have any effect or to 
have more potent effects on GnRH pulsatility, it seems likely that the 
concept of human pheromones is an idea whose time has come (again).

Jim Kohl

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