A Scent Of Fear

Posted By Ben Goulding, 6 July, 2009 | permalink

New research suggests that anxiety prompts the release of a chemical that bypasses conscious experience, automatically triggering similar feelings in anyone who sniffs it.

That is the findings of a study at the University of Dusseldorf, Germany. Bettina Pause, a psychologist from the university, put absorbent pads under the armpits of 49 students an hour before they took their final oral exam and again as the same students exercised. Other students then sniffed the sweat samples while having their brains scanned.

None of the students noticed a difference between the samples, however the two samples had differing effects on their brain activity. The sweat sample taken before final exams triggered activity in areas of the brain associated with emotion as well as areas involved in empathy.

In a similar study in 2002, Kerstin Ackerl from the University of Vienna in Austria reported that women seemed to be able to detect the scent of fear. The 60 women rated sweat from women who had watched a scary movie as stronger, less pleasant and smelling more “like aggression” than sweat from women who had watched a neutral movie.

Exams really do stink!

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Posted in: Sci/Tech

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