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.

email