It's been scientific dogma for most of this century that humans do not rely on scent to any appreciable degree, and that any VNOs found are vestigial throwbacks.Then, in the 1930s, physiologists declared that humans lack the brain part to process VNO signals, firmly closing the book on any role for body odor in human sexual attraction.What they often do report is a warm, vague feeling of well-being.And the olfactory bulb that neurophysiologists couldn't find in the 1930s isn't absent in human brains at all, researchers recently discovered.Those who did complained that the VNO is so small that they could detect it only rarely.But most scientists, without bothering to look, simply dismissed the idea of a VNO in humans.The pits are lined with receptor cells that fire like mad when presented with certain substances.
Monkeys, he argued, have smaller "smell brains" than other mammals, and apes' brains are even smaller than that.
Even if we had a VNO, the thinking was, our brains wouldn't be able to interpret its signals.
Recent discoveries suggest, however, that the reports of our olfactory devolution have been greatly exaggerated. Smell researchers Barbara Sommerville and David Gee of the University of Leeds in England observed that smelling one another's hands or faces is a nearly universal human greeting.
Grandiose claims for the allure of a bottled smell are not new.
In their haste to mass-market sexual attraction during the last century, perfumers nearly drove the gentle musk deer extinct.