We have all heard that dogs can smell fear. For the longest time, it was pure guesswork. However, scientists at University of Naples “Federico II”, Italy, have demonstrated that they do indeed get directly affected by fear.

What about humans? How is our sense of smell?

Although dogs have a far more superior sense of smell, it turns out that our abilities are not to be sniffed at. Pun intended! Scientists wanted to know if humans used chemical signals known as “pheromones” to signal sexual intent.

Assistant Professor of Psychology at Rice University in Houston, Denise Chen devised an experiment to compare how women respond to different forms of male sweat versus the sweat they produced when turned on. Theoretically, the sweat produced during arousal would have a different smell to other situations.

The results were astounding.

20 heterosexual men (volunteers) were instructed not to wear deodorant and other scented products for several days. They placed cotton pads in their armpits whilst watching pornographic movies. These pads were replaced by fresh pads as they carried on with normal daily activities. 19 female heterosexual volunteers were recruited and were asked to sniff the different pads. Their brain activity was monitored using fMRI (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging).

The research showed that several parts of the brain are involved in processing the emotional value of the olfactory information. These include the right fusiform region, the right orbitofrontal cortex and the right hypothalamus.

With the exception of the hypothalamus, neither the orbitofrontal cortex nor the fusiform region is considered to be associated with sexual motivation and behavior,” Chen said. “Our results imply that the chemosensory information from natural human sexual sweat is encoded more holistically in the brain rather than specifically for its sexual quality.”

Humans are evolved to respond to salient socio-emotional information. Distinctive neural mechanisms underlie the processing of emotions in facial and vocal expressions. The findings help explain the neural mechanism for human social chemosignals.

In a Utrecht University study led by Gün Semin, they collected the sweat of ‘sender’ participants in happy, fearful and neutral states using pads placed under their armpits while they watched different film clips.

These pads were cut up, put into jars, and presented to a group of ‘receivers’ to sniff, in a random order.

While they sniffed, they were hooked up to an electromyograph, which measured subtle differences in the activity of their facial muscles as a function of the emotion they were experiencing, induced by the sweat.

“Exposure to sweat from happy senders elicited a happier facial expression than did sweat from fearful or neutral senders,” the researchers wrote in the Journal Psychological Science.

“Our findings suggest that not only a negative state, but also a positive state (happiness) can be transferred by means of odours.”

Your happiness is indeed infectious. It engenders trust, better communication and increased engagement. This applies to the personal, professional as well as social life.

Finally, here are 7 natural smells that can help induce happiness.

  1. Researchers found that the festive pine helps to reduce stress.
  2. The smell of citrus-packed foods has been shown to boost energy and alertness. Studies have revealed that lemon scents cents, in particular, can reduce stress and leave a positive impression another’s.
  3. In Australia, researchers found that a chemical released by freshly cut grass could cause people to become more relaxed and even feel joy. The smell is so powerful that it is sent to prevent mental decline as you age.
  4. Lavender is well documented for its calming effect, particularly easing insomnia and depression.
  5. Jasmine has also been shown to boost moods
  6. Studies have found that the smell of rosemary enhanced participants; ability to remember complex events and tasks. Scientists say the research could lead the way to treating memory loss.
  7. Oil from peppermint is known for its ability to elevate your mood and stimulate your mind and body. Studies have even shown that athletes who smell peppermint have improved athletic performance and improve their breathing.

How happy do you choose to be?


This blog post was taken from The Harun Rabbani Show podcast. You can listen to it in full on any of the main providers. Click the relevant link to suit your smartphone: