So Joana and I are going to study more about the connection between scent, sexual attraction and co sleeping.
The Science of Sex: Does the Nose Know?
Considerable evidence suggests that we produce individually unique body odors, and that we easily discriminate between the body odors of different people. Our body odor is mainly influenced by Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) molecules that are genetically determined and linked to the immune system. Research has shown that the human species is mostly attracted to scents with different compatibility genes from themselves.
When it comes to sexual attraction, we can sniff out our match not only by the deodorants they use, but also by the body odor we find most attractive, masked under those chemicals. Most of us try to cover it up with deodorants and perfumes (I am not against it), but body odor might actually help us find our best-fit romantic partners. Apparently, the magic scent is not some romantic elixir but the aromatic effluence of our immune system. The only trouble is we don't give it a chance. Perfumes and colognes have strong connection to memory and that hasn’t stopped fragrance makers from touting perfumes designed to lure the opposite sex. Our sense of smell literally prevents us from sniffing out alternate partners while we’re dating someone else to protect the monogamy of our relationship (or at least it should!!!). Perfumes and colognes smell differently on everyone. They react differently on everyone’s skin, so our body temperature and biological makeup determines how a scent will uniquely reveal itself on us. So, maybe the person who possesses your opposite MHC composition, who also just happens to be wearing a fragrance that makes you happy, is your soul mate. Maybe it means that perfectly unique combination of a fragrance and a natural scent makes another person smell intoxicating to us.
This weekend, I was at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences creating a piece about the microbiome of the city and its inhabitants. I thought also about the topics of co-sleeping, shared living spaces...
In the lab, I tried a couple of little experiments. In this plate, I put two microbial samples: one from my side of the bed, one from my husband’s side of the bed. The samples are combined with acrylic paint, not sure how that will interact.
In this plate, I’ve combined microbial samples from my self, my husband and our son, Vasco (1 year old). I’m interested to see what the similarities and differences might appear.
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Pooneh Heshmati is an award-winning cognitive neuroscientist, physician, and post doctoral researcher at Northwell Health in New York.
Joana Ricou is an award-winning NYC-based artist, and creative director of Regenerative Medicine Partnership for Life.