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have acted to focus these women's attentions on the stimulus rather than on the external environment within the laboratory.

Another explanation is that the odors may have acted through a distractor effect. The women might think about the odor rather than think about all the negative aspects of being inside a laboratory. This would then remove associated negative emotional tone and hence remove inhibitions, allowing sexual arousal to occur.

Another potential mechanism is the phenomenon of olfactory-evoked nostalgia. Approximately 86% of women described a strong olfactory-evoked nostalgic response where odor induced a vivid memory of one's childhood (77). The odors might have induced an olfactory-evoked response of these women's childhood. Childhood memory is often associated with positive emotions. By inducing the women to be in a more positive mood state, odors may have reduced inhibitions, therefore allowing sexual arousal.

Memories of one's childhood might induce not only a positive mood state but also a sense of security and safety. These feelings would then be reintroduced to the women on exposure to the odor, allowing them to be less inhibited. By feeling safe and secure, urges would come forth as manifested by enhanced vaginal blood flow. Alternatively, the odors may have induced recall of sexual experiences in one's adolescence, which then would have a direct induction of sexual arousal.

Another possible mechanism by which odors could impact female sexual arousal is by directly acting in a physiological manner. The odors could have affected perception of another sensation, for example, touch or pain. Touch perception threshold may have been reduced by the odors. Hence, the women were able to feel the vaginal probe to a greater degree than they were without the odor present. This increased touch perception may have induced the vaginal probe to become a sexually arousing stimulus. Studies suggest that odors can enhance tactile perception (78), as well as affect perceptional thresholds in other forms, that is, perception of external space (79). Or the odors might not affect the touch threshold so much as the awareness of the touch threshold. Another possible physiological mechanism by which odors may enhance sexual arousal is by reducing pain. By reducing pain, odors may have acted to remove inhibitions. A low level of pain may have existed in these women as a result of the vaginal probe and odors may have reduced this pain. Evidence that odors can influence pain has been demonstrated in migraine headaches (21).

Another possible mechanism arises from the olfactory link to the limbic system. Odors, by inducing a strong emotional response associated with limbic system firing, may induce a neighborhood effect. Overflow limbic system discharges may project to all limbic system structures, including the septal nuclei, the sexual arousal center. Hence, the generalized emotional response to odors may have acted physiologically to induce arousal.

The effects of specific odors must also be considered. For example, an evolutionary hypothesis may be entertained in trying to understand why primarily food odors affect sexual arousal. Primitive humans congregated around food kills (80). Perhaps there they had the most opportunities to procreate. An increase in sexual arousal in response to food odors, therefore, may have conferred an evolutionary advantage for survival.

Humans can detect approximately 10,000 odors (81). Only 46 were examined. Studies have suggested that many odors affect behavior; for example, floral smells affect learning (82) and buying behavior (83), green apple affects claustrophobia, barbecue smoke induces agoraphobia (79), and food odors affect weight loss (84). Quite possibly other food odors would affect vaginal and penile blood flow more than those we examined.

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