Data Points

By Emily Gold Boutilier / March / April 2005
August 10th, 2007

That Stinks

A new study by Rachel Herz, visiting assistant professor of psychology, suggests that humans are not biologically predisposed to savoring the scent of vanilla or cringing at the smell of skunk. As she writes in the International Journal of Comparative Psychology, when subjects in her study enjoyed playing a computer game, they more often found pleasant the odor piped into the room as they played. If they disliked the game, they tended to dislike the scent. When it comes to dating, though, biology comes into play: each person’s smell reflects his or her immune system, and biology encourages people to choose a mate whose immune profile has a different genetic stamp from their own. Women on birth-control pills, Herz notes, can be fooled. They tend to choose men who smell like their fathers or brothers.

Remember This If You Can

Everyone from high-school health teachers to memory-challenged baby boomers takes it for granted that drinking alcohol kills brain cells. New research shows that when teenagers go on binges, the damage can be worse than anyone thought. At a recent meeting of the Research Society on Alcoholism, scientists revealed that young female adults who''d had an alcohol problem since adolescence showed less brain activity during a memory test than those who’d never had a drinking problem. Not surprisingly, the subjects with the alcohol problem did not perform as well on the test. Professor of Medical Science Peter Monti cochaired the symposium and coauthored an article in the February issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research about the research.

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March / April 2005