Tuesday, January 22, 2008

American military researchers are working to uncover and harness the most terrifying chemical imaginable: that most primal odor, the scent of fear.

Pheromones are chemicals released by animals as signals to their own kind: for sex, for territorial marking, and more. They're often detected in the olfactory membranes. But there's more to pheromones than attraction. Many animals have an alarm pheromone which is used to signal danger; aphids, for example, use it to cause their fellow lice to flee.

Now, the US Army is trying to track down and harness people's smell of fear. The military has backed a study on the "Identification and Isolation of Human Alarm Pheromones," which "focused on the Preliminary Identification of Steroids of Interest in Human Fear Sweat." The so-called "skydiving protocol" was the researchers' method of choice.


Logo from the Dept of Medical Research ( military)
The Grant that funds this is also funding 4 other projects which have wide ranges of military uses. I could not resist this logo from their site. We should be taking better care of returning soldiers, who many can't find housing upon return. See the Movie " When I Came Home" But we spend billions on this sort of research, making a soldier better in the field with little to no public accountability.

This work piggybacks on a 2002 study by the Ludwig-Boltzmann-Institute for Urban Ethology at the University of Vienna. Subjects wore underarm pads while watching a 'terrifying' film -- the horror movie Candyman -- or a 'neutral' documentary. Afterwards subjects were asked to try and distinguish between pads worn by people seeing each film. The results showed that they could -– though subjects thought the smell was aggression rather than fear.

Some have suggested that the human alarm pheromone could lead to chemical fear-sensors. The project Integrated System for Emotional State Recognition for the Enhancement of Human Performance and Detection of Criminal Intent (do they call it ISESREHPDCI for short?) specifically mentions the possibility of monitoring pheromone levels:

Some in the military research complex have been down this road before. Remember the so-called "Gay Bomb," that would make enemy combatants irresistibly attracted to one another? Speaking of which, all those web sites advertising pheromones to make you irresistible to the opposite sex haven’t actually got many decent studies to back them up, a topic I explored in last month's Fortean Times magazine.

Fight or flight? Military research may tip the balance
PennWell BtoB Industry Blogs, OK - Jan 20, 2008
... by uncovering the precise chemical scent of fear, according to a story on the Wired Danger Room blog entitled Pentagon Explores 'Human Fear' Chemicals; ...
The fear factor of pheromones -- DOD study revealed. LBAM folks ...
Bay Area Indymedia, CA - Jan 19, 2008
“Now, the US Army is trying to track down and harness people's smell of fear. The military has backed a study on the "Identification and Isolation of Human ...

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