As pheromone signals emanating from dominant males may encourage the formation of new brain cells in their female partners, scientists at the University of Calgary's Hotchkiss Brain Institute, Canada, believe they could help repair damaged brains.

You can read about this new study in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

Sam Weiss writes that pheromones may control stem cells in the brain. He found that two brain areas in the female brain develop a pheromonal bond with the male mate.

In this latest study, female mice were exposed to the scent of the alpha male. The researchers found that new neurons were formed in the part of the females' brains that deal with memory (hippocampus) and smell (olfactory bulb). Non-alpha males' pheromones did not spark the same result.

The researchers found there is a survival boost in this process. Female mice exposed to the dominant male's pheromones generate new brain cells which help them find other dominant males.

The scientists suggest that further research may find a way of using pheromones to help people with brain injuries.

Weiss said "We found that pheromones, and particularly dominant male pheromones, can stimulate the production of new brain cells, and these new brain cells are substantially important to allow the females to choose a dominant male. They did make a choice, and they chose the dominant male. The link between making the neurons and making the choice is clear… We are able to prove for the first time that new neurons in the seat of memory in the brain, the hippocampus, work hand-in-hand with new neurons in the olfactory bulb. Previously, no one understood how the new neurons in these regions of the brain were communicating."

"Male pheromone-stimulated neurogenesis in the adult female brain: possible role in mating behavior"
Gloria K Mak, Emeka K Enwere, Christopher Gregg, Tomi Pakarainen, Matti Poutanen, Ilpo Huhtaniemi & Samuel Weiss
Nature Neuroscience - doi:10.1038/nn1928
Click here to see abstract online

Written by: Christian Nordqvist
Editor: Medical News Today