Breaking News – Perfume Turns Guys On

South Korean researchers have conducted an fMRI study that shows that perfume can arouse some men. Shocking news, eh?

Eight healthy right-handed heterosexual male volunteers (20-35 years of age), having normal olfaction and no brain diseases, were recruited. During fMRI, a women’s perfume was given as an olfactory sexual stimulant in an alternating block design with a 30-second stimulation period followed by a 30-second rest. After the fMRI sessions, the participants provided ratings for both the odorant’s intensity and perceived arousal…

Two out of eight subjects experienced “strong” sexual arousal, and three subjects experienced “moderate” arousal during olfactory stimulation, resulting in a mean score of 2.25 on a 4-point scale. The common brain areas activated in response to the odor stimulus in all eight subjects included the insula, the inferior and middle frontal gyrus, and the hypothalamus. The median cingulate gyrus, thalamus, angular gyrus, lingual gyrus, and cerebellar cortex were activated in subjects who had moderate or strong sexual arousal response.

Conclusion. Olfactory stimulation with women’s perfume produces the activation of specific brain areas in men. The brain areas activated differed according to the degree of perceived sexual arousal response. Further studies are needed to elucidate brain activation response according to the different kinds and intensities of olfactory stimulation. [From Huh J, Park K, Hwang IS, Jung SI, Kim H-J, Chung T-W, and Jeong G-W. Brain activation areas of sexual arousal with olfactory stimulation in men: A preliminary study using functional MRI. J Sex Med 2008;5:619-625.]

Some might say that one hardly needs to waste expensive fMRI time to show that if you expose some young, heterosexual guys to perfume, a few will get turned on. That’s no doubt true, but it misses the potential of this kind of experiment. A frequent theme of mine is that neuromarketing is best used for product improvement rather than ad improvement. Imagine the potential for developing and testing fragrances this way. In particular, imagine marketing a men’s cologne proven to excite three out of four healthy females – do you think you could sell a bottle or two of that? I don’t know if these scents affect people consistently, or are keyed into individual memories and experience. Nevertheless, it’s an intriguing thought.

This seems to be turning into Olfactory Week here at Neuromarketing. Thanks to The Neurocritic for nosing out the Finnish version of the story.

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— who has written 985 posts on Neuromarketing.

Roger Dooley writes and speaks about marketing, and in particular the use of neuroscience and behavioral research to make advertising, marketing, and products better. He is the primary author at Neuromarketing, and founder of Dooley Direct LLC, a marketing consultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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3 responses to "Breaking News – Perfume Turns Guys On" — Your Turn

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Perfume Brands 11. February 2009 at 12:25 am

Perfumes are the only commodity that requires complete hard work and patience. Every perfume is made having its own uniqueness. I own a blog and write posts on the history and the making of perfumes

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Thomas 5. May 2009 at 10:14 am

I´ll hope to find your blob about making parfumes. Maybe we can have contact for discussing results in brain activity. For making brands in wich section however smell is essential.

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Ronzoni 16. September 2011 at 4:53 pm

I met a woman who was older than me when I lived in Lewiston,ME. She wore Shalimar and when I danced with her it was heavenly. That scent would drive me wild when I was next to her.

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