Lesbians and pheromones

News is starting to leak out about an article embargoed until 5PM today. The article reports a study by the same Swedish team that did the gay male and pheromone study about a year ago. This study shows that sexual orientation at the extreme (5-6 Kinsey scale) differentiates how the brain responds to a putative pheromone. The response from lesbians is not as clear cut as gay males. Lesbians process estrogen derived pheromones both in the normal olfactory fashion and via the hypothalamus (a link in the sexual response). The participants did not experience any sexual response so it is interesting that these lesbians’ brains registered the pheromones in a different way than did straight women. Lesbians were somewhat like straight men but not exactly like them. The reference is: Berglund, H., Lindstro”m, P., & Savic, I. (2006). Brain response to putative pheromones in lesbian women. Proceedings of the Natural Academy of Science, Early Edition (www.pnas.org).

As usual, Gay 365 has it wrong. Their article says: “It’s a finding that adds weight to the idea that homosexuality has a physical underpinning and is not learned behavior.” The study doesn’t say anything about how the brain responses occurred. In fact, the study suggests that the differing responses may indeed be learned.

I proposed to Dr. Savic that the team consider an additional study of bisexuals and ex-gays. Dr. Savic replied favorably that the team would consider it.

Addendum: My apologies to Gay 365, they took their info from the AP story. Here is what Dr. Savic said about learning in a New Scientist article on the subject: “But our study can’t answer questions of cause and effect,” cautions lead researcher Ivanka Savic at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden. “We can’t say whether the differences are because of pre-existing differences in their brains, or if past sexual experiences have conditioned their brains to respond differently.”

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