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Male Scent Molecules May Be Compromising Biomedical Research 274

sciencehabit (1205606) writes "Scientists have found that mice feel 36% less pain when a male researcher is in the room, versus a female researcher. The rodents are also less stressed out. The effect appears to be due to scent molecules that male mammals (including humans, dogs, and cats) have been emitting for eons. The finding could help explain why some labs have trouble replicating the results of others, and it could cause a reevaluation of decades of animal experiments: everything from the effectiveness of experimental drugs to the ability of monkeys to do math. Male odor could even influence human clinical trials."
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Male Scent Molecules May Be Compromising Biomedical Research

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 28, 2014 @03:23PM (#46861999)

    No more need to wear deodorant. My naturally musky smell will make everyone feel more at ease.

    • by Muros ( 1167213 ) on Monday April 28, 2014 @04:09PM (#46862467)

      No more need to wear deodorant. My naturally musky smell will make everyone feel more at ease.

      Unfortunately, the summary is incorrect. The article says the mice are more stressed with males around.

      • Either way, we make mice feel nice.

    • by Maxo-Texas ( 864189 ) on Monday April 28, 2014 @04:53PM (#46862917)

      I found plain old alcohol superior to deodorant in every way.

      Amazing stuff. It strips the built up oils and wax on the hair off and kills the bacteria too.

      I found a lot of deodorants actually made me smell worse when they broke down.

      Only down side is on a hot day- I might have to do this again every six hours. But deodorant doesn't even last six hours on me.

      • by boristdog ( 133725 ) on Monday April 28, 2014 @05:15PM (#46863141)

        How much do you have to drink to get this effect?

        • by Maxo-Texas ( 864189 ) on Monday April 28, 2014 @06:02PM (#46863517)

          It varies but it also improves my dancing and my kung fu skills.

          • I have realized I play pool very well when I am drunk, and very poorly when sober.

            • That's called modal learning and it's a real thing, but it's also likely your over-estimating your skill when drunk (most of us do). Modal learning associated with drink is also seen in bowlers and golfers.

            • by Kiffer ( 206134 )

              State Dependent Memory.

              If you learn to play while drunk you improve your skills while drunk but not while sober.
              In order to be good while sober you need to learn while sober.
              The fun part is that you learn lots of things while in different states.
              You learn to do something only while heavily caffeinated/drunk/high? Then it only comes to you easily while you are caffeinated, drunk or high...
              Caffeine and coding.
              Drink and darts.

        • I think frequency would be slightly more important would want to maintain a suitable blood-alcohal level constantly, but then you could always spike it higher for those pesky 'dealing with the public' occasions. ;-)

      • Citric acid works even better. I can go for two to three days without reapplying my citric acid solution and have done so for the past three years.

        If you search online, you'll encounter all kinds of 'rub lemons under your armpits' and comparable tips. The more scientific approach is of course to just buy a kilo of crystallized citric acid for a few euro's and then mix it with water until you reach a pH-level slightly above 2.0 (buy some cheap indicator paper). Put it in a spray bottle and there you go.

        You w

  • by chinton ( 151403 ) <chinton001-slashdot AT gmail DOT com> on Monday April 28, 2014 @03:24PM (#46862023) Journal
    Maybe the male scientists need to shower more often...
    • Your assuming that it's a smell that can be washed off, the implication of the article is the way to get rid of the smell is to cut off your testicles.

      Bedding material from unfamiliar male mice and guinea pigs, as well as pet beds slept in by unsterilized male cats and dogs, produced the same response:

      Might be interesting to test if females evoke an effect depending on where they are in their estrous cycle, seeing that it is more of a pheromonal thing than an odor thing.

      • by wanax ( 46819 )

        There's a huge bias towards using exclusively male mice in many types of research, and the issue of higher variance in female rodent behavior (due to estrous cycle issues, among others) is well known (see eg: pdf []).

        There are also related problems more generally with stress and over-training in neuroscience. Experienced investigators are able to produce a much less stressful working environment for animals, so they tend to get different results from neophyte investigators even when following the same protocol

  • by coinreturn ( 617535 ) on Monday April 28, 2014 @03:25PM (#46862029)
    Women are intimidating and cause stress. Film at 11.
  • 36% less pain (Score:5, Interesting)

    by kruach aum ( 1934852 ) on Monday April 28, 2014 @03:25PM (#46862037)

    What does a percent of lessened pain feel like? I can't even tell whether my throat hurts half as bad as it did yesterday or a fourth as bad, and that's from a first person perspective, the only perspective from which you actually have access to pain sensations.

    I should also note that I'm not a mouse.

    • You're not quantifying your reactions to pain. If someone kept track of how often you said "Ouch, my throat" or grimmaced while swallowing, you could probably get an idea. It would be a proxy measure at best, maybe you were just used to it and it hurt the same amount. But one needs to quantify something in order to know if it's working.

      Animal studies are usually pretty messy even if you're not measuring behavior. Everyone who works with animals knows this. It's also more expensive. If you're testin
    • Re:36% less pain (Score:5, Informative)

      by Demonantis ( 1340557 ) on Monday April 28, 2014 @03:57PM (#46862369)
      Pain scales [] in a lab setting are fairly common and rigorous. They mostly use a physical response that can correlated to pain using a complex apparatus. Of course, it is all extremely finicky which is why it took so long for this influencing factor to be detected.
    • What gender were the emotion-scorers?

  • by drainbramage ( 588291 ) on Monday April 28, 2014 @03:27PM (#46862049)

    How do those little rodents feel when Richard Gere walks into the room?
    Remember what the brown gerbil said to the white gerbil?
    "You're new around here, aren't you."

  • by alta ( 1263 ) on Monday April 28, 2014 @03:33PM (#46862095) Homepage Journal

    Maybe the males are all neutral and the women are just nagging the animals to perform and causing too much stress!?

  • by WoOS ( 28173 ) on Monday April 28, 2014 @03:39PM (#46862165)

    The summary writes:
    The rodents are also less stressed out.

    The article writes:
    The male aroma ramped up their stress levels, which deadened the hurt.

    Was this the daily "Find the inconsistency" test on slashdot? Did I win something?

  • Can't find the article available for online reading, beyond []

    But one wonders about the sample size and the statistical significance of the experiments.

  • I could easily believe that male hormones cause nearby animals to be more prepared to defend themselves and thus pain relief follows as an aid to flight or fight enhancements in the animal. This also demonstrates why variables should never exist in any scientific experiment and just how subtle a variable may be. The financial losses from decades of spoiled research could be considerable.
    • It also makes you want to question other effects that would appear to trivial to even mention: like whether the room has fluorescent or incandescent lighting. Is there a lot of vibration from being near a road. What colour are the walls painted and the smell of the cleaning materials used by the janitors.

      And I thought it was only the social sciences who had so many variables that they simply ignored 99.99% of them: and couldn't even identify the rest.

  • "These creatures you call mice, you see, they are not quite as they appear. They are merely the protrusion into our dimension of vastly hyperintelligent pandimensional beings."

    Do YOU feel manipulated?

    Signed: A male (smelly) scientist

  • by volvox_voxel ( 2752469 ) on Monday April 28, 2014 @04:03PM (#46862405)

    "The Rat Grimace Scale: A partially automated method for quantifying pain in the laboratory rat via facial expressions" []

    Here is another paper where the researches used a patch clamp to interface the spinal cord. (A patch clamp is a very low noise/high gain amplifier that can measure single cell ion channels, etc -- []) []

    I wonder what methods are typically used? Do researchers videorecord grimacing rats? That seems rather tedious and subjective.

  • This may be affecting experiments, but if you're designing your experiments correctly, it won't change your results. The "male in the room" effect should affect all animals the same.

    You have a control set and a variable set of mice. The animal handlers should be the same for both, and they shouldn't know if at all possible which is which. Males on the staff will stress out the mice, okay, but they'll stress out both control and variable mice the same. Having a female undergrad handle the control cages and a male undergrad handle the variable mice you're using to try to prove your drug makes them hurt less is going to skew your results independent of gender scents.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      No, if I try to reproduce your study, but your lab had a male animal handler and mine didn't, I may get different results.
      "Presence of male human" was not previously thought to be something that had to be controlled for.

    • Not in the cases where you measure LEVELS of sensitivity to pain in some way.
      Which basically includes every endurance or stress test.

      They are "zeroed out" to a higher level.

      Now your mice endure longer or don't start reacting as soon as they should have. So all your results are off by a third.
      On top of that, someone tries to repeat your experiment - and their mice react differently.
      There goes the peer review.

      And that's just the pain. What else is influenced by inducing more stress?

    • I'm betting that this poster is a woman assuming that scent molecules can be controlled for by double-blind when it's going to be difficult controlling the dose.

      For instance; We've all known scientifically since the days of sailing that women are just bad luck.

  • by koan ( 80826 )

    Is this why females are more irritating in general?

  • by DarthVain ( 724186 ) on Monday April 28, 2014 @04:32PM (#46862715)

    Rats react to women the same as if their was no observer?
    Maybe we should she if women can observe things without changing states!

    This would explain a lot of male confusion when women say two diametrically opposed things in the same sentence... They can just observe more quantum states than we can and can't understand why we cannot. :)

    • It's even more wonderfully complex than that. TFA says that a T-shirt worn by a female placed next to the rats produced no change, while a T-shirt worn by a male reduced the levels of pain. But placing both T-shirts together cancelled out the effect of the male T-shirt. So the preservation of quantum state by a female observer also extends to a male observer if a female is present. I guess this explains why her POV always prevails in a relationship.
      • by epyT-R ( 613989 )

        These days, her opinion prevails mainly because of the implied threat of her leaving and taking all his life's earning with her, hangs over his head. We have the ivy league left-wing indoctrinated feminist judges to thank for that (both male and female). For Great (Social) Justice.

  • What's the baseline stress level? It would answer the question: do men cause 33% more stress or do women aleviate 33% stress? And I call bullshit on it anyway because I can tell you who stresses me out the most in order: my mom, my grandma, my sisters and my wife.

  • why women don't enter scientific fields...

  • by PPH ( 736903 ) on Monday April 28, 2014 @04:39PM (#46862781)

    It's the drill instructor or coach attitude that they pick up.

    "Come on, mouse! Play through the pain! Gimme twenty more pushups!"

  • by slashmydots ( 2189826 ) on Monday April 28, 2014 @04:58PM (#46862997)
    "The rodents are also less stressed out"
    And so are the male scientists, depending on what time of the month it is.
  • "everything from the effectiveness of experimental drugs to the ability of monkeys to do math"
    Aha, so next time you're doing poorly on a math exam, tell the teacher that you need all the males to leave.
  • I know that when I have tests performed on me, the hotter the woman the more I'm affected. Now excuse me while I hunch forward while the hot nurse takes my blood.

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