The neuroscience of sexual attractions

From the Mind Hacks blog

Excerpt: “A recent edition of radio programme KERA Think has a fantastic discussion on development and the neuroscience of sexual attraction in its many forms.

The programme is a discussion with Simon LeVay, a neuroscientist who raised a lot of eyebrows by finding differences in the brain structure of gay and straight men in a 1991 study.”

Link to programme page with streamed audio. mp3 of podcast.

My comment: On page 210 of his book, LeVay discusses my model for the development of heterosexual and homosexual preferences: “This model is attractive in that it solves the “binding problem” of sexual attraction. By that I mean the problem of why all the different features of men or women (visual appearance and feel of face, body, and genitals; voice quality, smell; personality and behavior, etc.) attract people as a more or less coherent package representing one sex, rather than as an arbitrary collage of male and female characteristics. If all these characteristics come to be attractive because they were experienced in association with a male- or female-specific pheromone, then they will naturally go together even in the absence of complex genetically coded instructions.”

We now know considerable more about the complexity of genetically coded instructions — enough to say that what is known is insufficient in attempts to explain anything about the adaptive evolution of sexual preferences.

LeVay adds that “Still, even in fruit flies, other sensory input besides pheromones — acoustic, tactile, and visual stimuli — play a role in sexual attraction, and sex specific responses to these stimuli appear to be innate rather than learned by association [36.]. We simply don’t know where the boundary between prespecified attraction and learned association lie in our own species, nor do we have compelling evidence for the primacy of one sense over another.”

Neuroscientists have known for many years precisely where the boundary lies between genetically predisposed attraction and learned associations in species from microbes to man. The most compelling evidence available shows that the epigenetic effects of olfactory/pheromonal input clearly establish olfaction as the primary sense and that it is responsible for adaptive evolution via ecological, social, neurogenic, and socio-cognitive niche construction across the evolutionary continuum that includes differences in sexual orientation.

See for example: Kohl, J.V. (2012) Human pheromones and food odors: epigenetic influences on the socioaffective nature of evolved behaviors. Socioaffective Neuroscience & Psychology, 2: 17338. https://dx.doi.org/10.3402/snp.v2i0.17338 (10 pages)

As an alternative read the 57-page journal article concurrently published as a book chapter (that LeVay discussed in the context of my model): The Mind’s Eyes: Human pheromones, neuroscience, and male sexual preferences https://www2.hu-berlin.de/sexology/BIB/kohl.htm

About James V. Kohl 1308 Articles
James Vaughn Kohl was the first to accurately conceptualize human pheromones, and began presenting his findings to the scientific community in 1992. He continues to present to, and publish for, diverse scientific and lay audiences, while constantly monitoring the scientific presses for new information that is relevant to the development of his initial and ongoing conceptualization of human pheromones. Recently, Kohl integrated scientific evidence that pinpoints the evolved neurophysiological mechanism that links olfactory/pheromonal input to genes in hormone-secreting cells of tissue in a specific area of the brain that is primarily involved in the sensory integration of olfactory and visual input, and in the development of human sexual preferences. His award-winning 2007 article/book chapter on multisensory integration: The Mind’s Eyes: Human pheromones, neuroscience, and male sexual preferences followed an award winning 2001 publication: Human pheromones: integrating neuroendocrinology and ethology, which was coauthored by disinguished researchers from Vienna. Rarely do researchers win awards in multiple disciplines, but Kohl’s 2001 award was for neuroscience, and his 2007 “Reiss Theory” award was for social science. Kohl has worked as a medical laboratory scientist since 1974, and he has devoted more than twenty-five years to researching the relationship between the sense of smell and the development of human sexual preferences. Unlike many researchers who work with non-human subjects, medical laboratory scientists use the latest technology from many scientific disciplines to perform a variety of specialized diagnostic medical testing on people. James V. Kohl is certified with: * American Society for Clinical Pathology * American Medical Technologists James V. Kohl is a member of: * Society for Neuroscience * Society for Behavioral Neuroendocrinology * Association for Chemoreception Sciences * Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality * International Society for Human Ethology * American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science * Mensa, the international high IQ society