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Chemical Signal in Women's Tears A Turnoff For Men

A surprising experiment found tears of sadness from a woman may temporarily lower a man’s testosterone level. Those tears send a chemical signal as the man gets close enough to sniff them — even though there's no discernible odor, say researchers.
It's the first such signal to be found in tears, and it's probably not unique to women's. Theirs just were the first to be studied. Emotional tears are chemically different from the reflex tears that form when you get dust in your eye. But biologists have long puzzled over the true function of emotional tears: Are they merely cathartic, or do they have some other physiological role?
First, some women volunteered to watch a sad movie in the lab and collect their tears in a vial. For a comparison, researchers trickled saline down the women's cheeks and collected those droplets, too.
Healthy young men couldn't smell a difference between the real tears and the sham ones.
Then came a series of tests: The men were given women's photographs to rate. When they sniffed actual tears, they found the women less sexually attractive than when they sniffed saline.
Also, saliva tests of testosterone levels found a dip in that hormone after they sniffed tears but not the salt water. The findings make sense, researchers said, because the glands that secrete tears bear receptors, or docking ports, for sex hormones — a connection most clearly seen with dry eye, which is most common in postmenopausal women.
Why would our tears have evolved a "chemosignal" to function as a sign of sexual disinterest? It's possible that's a proxy for lowering aggression, acknowledged Sobel, who now is trying to identify the molecule doing the work.
For now his findings suggest "the signal is serving to time sexual behavior. It is a signal that allows its user to say, 'Now is not the right time.' I predict there are other signals that say, 'Now it is,'" Sobel said. "This is just one of many chemosignals."
 
 
Dr. Iverson's Comment
Interesting study, I particularly am interested in the aspect of the chemical differences between tears of emotion and tears due to irritation. Our body has its own pharmacy and we have the capacity to make hundreds of thousands of chemicals endogenously. The question we want to ask is what are the purposes of these chemicals found in tears? What would the differences be between tears of joy and tears of sorrow? Why does crying often make us feel better afterwards? 
The physiology of psychology is a fascinating field; it is unchartered territory that we will understand more in the decades to come.
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