A pheromone in mice that was only discovered by researchers ten years ago, has been shown to ‘put female mice in the mood’ – but only if the ‘complex’ internal state of the mouse allows it.
Just as with discoveries made regarding the ‘love hormone’ oxytocin, this new research, published this week in the prestigious Nature journal, may point to pheromones having a more complex role in attraction than was previously assumed. Some of the mice exposed to the pheromone – named ‘Darcin’ after the Jane Austen character Mr Darcy – reacted with immediate attraction, while others ignored it.
In a new paper, researchers from Columbia University’s Zuckerman Institute describe how different female mice reacted in the presence of urine that contained darcin.
The majority of mice showed an immediate attraction to the urine—in some cases, even reciprocating by offering their own urinary markings in return. Other behaviors reported in the study include singing in frequencies higher than the human ear can pick up. This also indicates a high sex drive, the researchers say.
However, this reaction to the darcin was not universal. Some mice appeared to ignore the darcin. In particular, the researchers noted, females who were lactating seemed oblivious to the presence of the pheromone.
The researchers suspect the mechanism behind these varied reactions lies in the medial amygdala, a part of the brain that plays a key role in the processing of social stimuli and, crucially, social odor cues.
..The study’s authors suspect there could be other pheromones that are processed in a similarly complex way.
The importance of this new research into the power of pheromones is that it adds to the weight of evidence that these ‘love molecules’ do in indeed play a key role in sex and sexual attraction between mammals, including by extension humans. The problem is that such experiments as the one described above into ‘Darcin’ are much easier to conduct in mice, than in people.