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Immunology of Sexuality and Variations

Jim Kohl jkohl at vegas.infi.net
Fri Jan 26 02:17:45 EST 1996

In article <69592.robin073 at maroon.tc.umn.edu>, robin073 at maroon.tc.umn.edu 
>On Tue, 23 Jan 1996 14:35:00 -0700, 
>Teresa Binstock   <binstoct at essex.UCHSC.edu> wrote:
>There are many sex-related differences in humans in areas such as 
>olfaction, brain structure, and susceptibility to disease.  I assume 
>that you have looked at the book "The Scent of Eros" by James Vaughn 
>Kohl and Robert T Francoeur.

James Vaughn Kohl here:

I happen to know that Teresa has looked at this book, but am delighted to 
see Alan reference it in this context. 

Alan offerred more insight, but I take issue with:

>Similarly, olfaction does not appear to play a large role in human 
>sexual desire (male-oriented pornography is almost entirely visual).  
>The fact that humans stand upright, so their noses aren't at the same 
>level as the genitals, makes them quite different from most other 
>animals - dogs, for example.

In my opinion, which is substantiated by empirical data cited in The 
Scent of Eros, the visual component of sexual desire is secondary to its 
pairing with olfactory stimuli. However, these olfactory stimuli need not 
be "smelled" to have physiological, and therefore, behavioral effects 
similar to the effects mammalian pheromones (subliminal scents) have on 
other species. For example, dogs are not the only animals that can be 
trained to distiguish odor differences that are consistent with tissue 
type. Humans have been trained to distiguish among the odors of 
congenically bred rodents--that vary only by genes at the MHC locus. 
Thus, it would appear that we can sniff out differences in "tissue type."
That women appear to do so was recently reported in Discover Magazine 
(Feb 1995) in which evidence of mating for genetic diversity on the basis 
of odors is presented. Note that Wedekind is not the first to offer this 
hypothesis: it was Carole Ober who first presented such a scenario in 
1993 during the annual meeting of a Genetics group--sorry I forgot their 

Alan again:
>There are major aspects of immune function and dysfunction which 
>appear to be markedly different in males and females.  This probably 
>has more to do with the close coupling of the physiological axes 
>that are involved with reproduction (e.g. LHRH-LH) with the HPA axis 
>and the autonomic nervous system than with specific patterns of 
>antigens arising from X and Y chromosomes.  The immune system in 
>females must also be designed not to reject the immunologically 
>different sperm and fetus, by a mechanism which is still not 

Recently it came to my attention that gonadotropin-releasing hormone 
(GnRH or as Alan states: LHRH) receptors have been found in the adrenal 
glands of rats. If they turn up in other mammals, and in humans, this 
would suggest to me that GnRH may be having direct effects on the 
adrenals, which might help to explain some of the immunological 

>There is considerable speculation that homosexuality arises from a 
>developmental variation in the fetal brain that is the result of 
>maternal (and or fetal) hormonal and immunological dysregulation.  
>But it is still just speculation.

Nonetheless, this speculation has grounding in the early embryonic 
migration of GnRH neurosecretory neurons--a process that may be effected 
by many factors--some of which Teresa is most familiar with. My focus was 
on how many GnRH neurosecretory neurons innervate the hypothalamus (and, 
in general) the limbic system. Not enough empirical data so far, or I 
haven't found it. Still, it seems likely that the number of these neurons 
contributes to differences in hypothalamic GnRH pulsatility, which seems 
very important not only to sex differences, but to differences in sexual 
orientation. Of course, this gets into some complex and controversial 
issues that are better discussed after reading either a book, or a 
journal article/review. The Scent of Eros was written for a general 
(though educated) audience. I have submitted a more technical paper. 
Meanwhile, I thank Alan for the following information...

>A good review of some of these recent scientific developments is in 
>the 1994 book "Brain Control of Responses to Trauma", edited by Nancy 
>Rothwell and Frank Berkenbosch.  It covers more than its title 
>implies.  More generally, this material is covered under such names as 
>neurimmunology, psychoneuroimmunology, neuroimmunomodulation, and 
>The independent scholar, Marjie Profet, has also published some 
>interesting speculations on human sexuality and the immune 
>system in the Quarterly Review of Biology.  (I'm writing this from 
>memory - I'm not sure I got those names exactly correct.)

... and I look forward to further discussion in this newsgroup of 
olfactory-genetic-neuronal-hormonal(including immunological)-behavioral 

Jim Kohl

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