The presence of functional pheromones in axillary extracts in humans is still matter of debate. Scattered data suggest that unidentified human axillary compounds with pheromonal activity may influence mood and this may occur, perhaps, through the modulation of the serotonin (5-HT) system that has been linked to mood by several findings. Therefore, the aim of this study was to assess the possible changes of a peripheral marker of the 5-HT system, i.e., the platelet 5HT transporter, and of some psychological tests, in a group of women who were exposed to male axillary extracts (group 1). A matched group of women who underwent an exposure to a neutral solution, were used as control subjects (group 2). The 5-HT transporter was evaluated by means of the specific binding of (3)H-paroxetine ((3)H-Par) to platelet membranes, as well as by means of (3)H-5-HT reuptake in whole platelets, at baseline (TO) and 1 h after the stimulation (T1). The following tests were used: the "Experiences in Close Relationships" questionnaire (ECR), the latest version of the Barratt Impulsiveness Scale (BIS-11) and the Structured Clinical Interview for Mood Spectrum, self-reported version. The dissociation constant (Kd) of (3)H-Par binding showed a significant decrease at T1 only in the women exposed to male axillary extracts, as compared with baseline values, while the Bmax and (3)H-5-HT reuptake parameters did not show any change in both groups. The correlation analyses showed that at TO, the Kd values correlated significantly and positively with the factor of motor impulsiveness in all subjects. Two factors of the BIS-11, in particular, the attentional and the motor impulsiveness were significantly lower at T1 in the group 1. Further, at T1 and still in the group 1, a significant and positive correlation was measured between the Kd values and two ECR attachment styles, the secure and preoccupied, as well as with the ECR anxiety scale. Taken together, these findings suggest that the application of male axillary extracts to women may modify the affinity of their platelet 5-HT transporter, as well as of some impulsiveness and romantic attachment characteristics. The substances responsible for this effect remain to be identified. (C) 2010 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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