Our language is filled with metaphors for breathing: Conspiracy ion the Latin means literally “breathing together,” just as inspiration means breathing in.
In recent years we’ve learned that plants communicate by airborne signals, most notably when an injury to one plant triggers defensive reactions in other nearby plants a process some scientists are hoping to thwart through genetic engineering.
And then there’s this 2007 report from the University of California, Berkeley:
Just a few whiffs of a chemical found in male sweat is enough to raise levels of cortisol, a hormone commonly associated with alertness or stress, in heterosexual women, according to a new study by University of California, Berkeley, scientists.
The study, reported this week in The Journal of Neuroscience, provides the first direct evidence that humans, like rats, moths and butterflies, secrete a scent that affects the physiology of the opposite sex.
“This is the first time anyone has demonstrated that a change in women’s hormonal levels is induced by sniffing an identified compound of male sweat,” as opposed to applying a chemical to the upper lip, said study leader Claire Wyart, a post-doctoral fellow at UC Berkeley.
And a 2015 report from Indiana University:
A new study from Indiana University provides evidence in mice that males may play a positive role in the development of offspring’s brains starting before pregnancy.
The research, reported June 30 in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences, [$29.25 for access — esnl] found that female mice exposed to male pheromones gave birth to infants with greater mental ability.
“This is the first study to show that pheromone exposure exerts an influence across generations in mammals,” said Sachiko Koyama, an associate research scientist at the IU Bloomington Medical Sciences Program and visiting scientist at the IU College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, who led the study.
“We found that male pheromones seem to influence the nutritional environment following birth, resulting in changes to the brain that could extend to future generations,” she added.
And now we’ve got all that out of the way, consider the implications for whta you’ve read when you peruse this report from the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry:
Tapped Cinema air: Thomas Kluepfel installs a tube into the ventilation system of a movie theatre in the Mainz Cinestar to through which the exhaust air is directed into a mass spectrometer. This analysed the air during numerous screenings in 30-second intervals. Especially suspense and funny movies leave a unique chemical signature in the air. © MPI for Chemistry
It is now possible to determine whether a movie scene is full of suspense, funny or somewhat boring, using chemistry. The Mainz researchers investigated how the composition of the air changed when an audience watched movies from different genres such as comedies like “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” and “Buddy”, or fantasy movies like “The Hobbit” and the science-fiction thriller “The Hunger Games”. The researchers determined how the audience reacted to individual movies on a scene-by-scene basis. Using their analyses, they were also able to reconstruct which scenes were playing at the time. The chemical patterns are best defined during suspense or funny scenes.
“The chemical signature of ‘The Hunger Games’ was very clear; even when we repeated the measurements with different audiences,” says Jonathan Williams, group leader at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry. “The carbon dioxide and isoprene levels in the air always increased significantly as the heroine began fighting for her life,” the atmospheric chemist continues. Williams and his team are more usually involved in the measurement of gases from the Amazon rainforest. Isoprene is one of more than 800 chemical compounds typically exhaled by healthy persons in tiny amounts in addition to carbon dioxide. However, it is not yet known what physiological processes are causing the formation of the molecules.
One explanation for the increasing carbon dioxide and isoprene levels, according to the Mainz researchers, is the fact that moviegoers tense up, become restless and breathe faster when watching scenes of suspense. Funny sequences consistently resulted in different molecular traces in the air than moments of excitement or suspense. “We can clearly differentiate the mass spectra,” says Williams.
There’s lots more after the jump. . . Continue reading