Girls Gone Boys Gone Wild: Altering mouse’s smell can seriously mess with gender idenity

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Everyone knows that the brains of men operate differently than the brains of women. A man’s brain operates off of testosterone, and this seems to be a fundamental key in the wiring in the brain. Testosterone is exposed to a male from the time he is in his mother’s uterus, and then receives a big splurge of it during puberty. Removing some testosterone from a male is risking him of his manliness, but this isn’t so simple for some, especially mice.

A new study from Nature, claims that the brain pathway for sexual behavior in male mice are also present in the female mice. That suggests that their is potential for a female mouse to exhibit sexual male behavior. What makes it even more interesting is that these behaviors can be triggered by different smells. Like many other animals, mice uses pheromones to signal sexual behaviors, but what happens when you disables the part of the nose that receive these signals?

Males lacking the ability to smell pheromones seem to have trouble distinguish between male and female, mounting both genders while trying to mate. Also, males don’t fight other male mice when this function is turned off. Women on the other hand seem to display even stranger behavior. Women also have the trouble in distinguishing between the two genders and engages in the “pelvic thrusting” and “butt sniffing” which is a male behavior. Women also experience an alter in their maternal instincts by spending less time with their pups and being less protective over their nests.

This article was very interesting and should raise awareness of the complexity of the male and female brain. Could smells possibly cause weird mishaps in the human world? Can a man smelling perfume cause him to become more passive in his sexual behavior? If a woman smells cologne will she start trying to enact pelvic thrusts in her sexual behavior? Mix all of this with some crazy pheromones and you have one heck of a catastrophe! JUST HOW FAR APART ARE MARS AND VENUS ?

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3 Responses to Girls Gone Boys Gone Wild: Altering mouse’s smell can seriously mess with gender idenity

  1. This sounds like a really interesting study. Can you provide a link to where you first read about it or, even better, a citation to the Nature article?

    There is a lot going on in anthropology right now about “the brain” and what is the best way to understand it. I wouldn’t go so far as to say there are male brains and female brains. I think Hrdy has shown that endochrinological system is sufficiently complex that we have to totally rethink instincts to include the relationship between the organism and its (natural/social) environment as well as past experiences.

    Obviously biologists and psychologists think they’ve got more authority to speak about brains than the touchy-feely anthropologists. We just think that learned behavior, which varies from culture to culture, is playing a much bigger role than they’re considering.

  2. nitiapablo says:

    I think that this study shows just how similar male and female brains are. If altering one sense can cause these behavioral changes, the assumed gender differences are probably not as clear-cut as most people believe. This post raised so many questions in my mind! For instance: if both parents are completely deaf, do they respond to and nurture children differently than non-hearing impaired parents? In this case, men would have these sort of permanent earplugs, even with their own children. Would deaf men respond just as urgently to a child’s cry as deaf women would since they probably can’t distinguish between cries?

    Before reading this, I never really thought about what role our senses play in sexual behavior. Some things are pretty obvious, like physical attraction based on what we see. But I wonder if maybe there’s some kind of gender disparity in which senses we depend on more. If so, could these dependencies be related to expressed sexual behavior? I’m going to look into this.

    • agreg019 says:

      Yes I totally agree with you. I never really considered the roles our senses played when it came to sexual behavior. Certain smells and images could cause a lot of different behaviors, but which smells actually effect females and which ones effect males would be something I would like to know.

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