May 31, 2012

The Special Scent of Age

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Does your grandma really have that "grandma scent" that you think that she does? New research says yes!

The study conducted by Monell Center shows that humans can identify the age of other humans based on differences in body odor.

"Similar to other animals, humans can extract signals from body odors that allow us to identify biological age, avoid sick individuals, pick a suitable partner, and distinguish kin from non-kin," senior author Johan Lundstrom, a sensory neuroscientist at Monell, was quoted saying.

In a recent study, body odors were collected from three age groups, with 12-16 individuals in each group: Young (20-30 years old), Middle-age (45-55 years old), and Old age (75-95 years old). Each donor slept for five nights in unscented

t-shirts containing underarm pads, which were then cut into quadrants and placed in glass jars.

Odors were assessed by 41 young evaluators, who were given two body odor glass jars in nine combinations and asked to identify which came from the older donors. Evaluators also rated the intensity and pleasantness of each odor and an estimated age.

Evaluators were able to discriminate the three donor age categories based on odor cues. Intriguingly, evaluators rated body odors from the old-age group as less intense than odors from the other two age groups.

"Elderly people have a discernible underarm odor that younger people consider to be fairly neutral and not very unpleasant," Lundstrom added.

Maybe that smell that we all associate with the "old person smell" is not as strong as we think after all.

Source: PloS ONE, May 2012