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Love is in the air...detected by PTR-TOF

Sexual arousal can be determined from breath analyzed by PTR-TOFMS

Scientists from the German Max Planck Gesellschaft found out that a characteristic signature of volatile molecules is found in the breath of sexually aroused people. The test subjects exhaled less isoprene and carbon dioxide, while the concentration of degradation products of certain neurotransmitters increased.

The breath analysis was carried out with an IONICON PTR-TOF instrument which enables real-time direct injection trace gas analysis with extremely high sensitivity, selectivity and excellent Limits-of-Detection (LoDs).

With the start of an erotic film clip, the amount of various volatile organic compounds in the breath of the aroused participants increased rapidly, other compounds decreased rapidly. In addition, the levels variated less than in the unexcited state. "The fact that the concentration of CO2 and isoprene in the breath decreased could be because the genitals had more blood flow, while the muscles and lungs had less," says Nijing Wang, lead author of the recently published study. "In men, we found phenol, cresol and indole. These seem to be typical indicators of sexual arousal." The substances are formed during the degradation of the amino acids tryptophan, a precursor substance of the neurotransmitter serotonin, and tyrosine, from which our body forms dopamine and noradrenaline. It is known that these messenger substances play an important role in erotic feelings and are formed quickly. Among other things, they bring people into a euphoric state of mind during sexual arousal.

Studying the signature of eroticism in breath more closely is worthwhile, not least from a medical point of view: "The possibility of non-invasively determining a person's sexual arousal through their breathing would be a great advance for sex research," says Pedro Nobre, the head of the Sexlab and Professor at the University of Porto in Portugal.

Source: "Love is in the air" by MPI