Sniffing the human body volatile hexadecanal blocks aggression in men but triggers aggression in women

Eva Mishor, Daniel Amir, Tali Weiss, Danielle Honigstein, Aharon Weissbrod, Ethan Livne, Lior Gorodisky, Shiri Karagach, Aharon Ravia, Kobi Snitz, Diyala Karawani, Rotem Zirler, Reut Weissgross, Timna Soroka, Yaara Endevelt-Shapira, Shani Agron, Liron Rozenkrantz, Netta Reshef, Edna Furman-Haran, Heinz BreerJoerg Strotmann, Tatsuya Uebi, Mamiko Ozaki, Noam Sobel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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In terrestrial mammals, body volatiles can effectively trigger or block conspecific aggression. Here, we tested whether hexadecanal (HEX), a human body volatile implicated as a mammalian-wide social chemosignal, affects human aggression. Using validated behavioral paradigms, we observed a marked dissociation: Sniffing HEX blocked aggression in men but triggered aggression in women. Next, using functional brain imaging, we uncovered a pattern of brain activity mirroring behavior: In both men and women, HEX increased activity in the left angular gyrus, an area implicated in perception of social cues. HEX then modulated functional connectivity between the angular gyrus and a brain network implicated in social appraisal (temporal pole) and aggressive execution (amygdala and orbitofrontal cortex) in a sex-dependent manner consistent with behavior: Increasing connectivity in men but decreasing connectivity in women. These findings implicate sex-specific social chemosignaling at the mechanistic heart of human aggressive behavior.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberabg1530
JournalScience advances
Issue number47
StatePublished - 19 Nov 2021
Externally publishedYes

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