Scientists have recently become very interested in this “accessory olfactory system.” It’s still new and controversial, but the theory stands that the pheromone system starts with nerve cells in tiny sacs called the vomeronasal organ (VNO), where the signals are first picked up. Behind the nostrils, the VNO is a pretty primitive structure. The nerve fiber attached to these organs (“cranial nerve zero”) responds directly to scents from potential mates.
Conveniently, nerve zero begins in the nose and ends in the brain area that deals with, yep, you guessed it—sex. Given that this nerve contributes to the sex drive of other animals (such as whales), people theorize it plays a big part in our sex lives too. Why? Pheromones and testosterone seem to directly drive sexual desire and activity in long-term relationships.
Even after we find a mate, we respond to different kinds of pheromones from people—some attract and others repel us. There’s even some research out there that says specific pheromones applied to the skin can increase the amount of sex we have.
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