European Journal of Anatomy

Official Journal of The Spanish Society of Anatomy
Cover Volume 5 - Number 1
Eur J Anat, 5 (1): 47-53 (2001)

Controversies on the human vomeronasal system

Martinez-Marcos A.

Departamento de Ciencias Medicas, Facultad de Medicina, Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha, 02071 Albacete, Spain

ABSTRACT Most vertebrates possess an accessory olfactory system parallel to the olfactory system. The most peripheral structure of the accessory (or vomeronasal) system is the vomeronasal organ, located at the base of the nasal septum. From the vomeronasal organ, vomeronasal sensory neurons project to the accessory olfactory bulb, which in turn projects to the vomeronasal-recipient structures in the basal telencephalon. The vomeronasal system detects pheromones (substances generally emitted by conspecifics) or prey chemicals, which have been demonstrated to be critical for sexual behaviors and foraging, respectively. In humans, the existence and functionality of the vomeronasal system has been debated for the last three centuries. Recent anatomical, histological, behavioral and physiological studies have reached very different conclusions on this issue, leaving an old controversy unresolved. A review of the literature indicates that most of evidence for a functional human vomeronasal system has been provided by physiological studies conducted by a single research group. Since current anatomical evidence does not support the existence of neural substrates for these physiological effects, the functionality of the human vomeronasal organ awaits further independent confirmation.

Keywords: gene product, neuron specific enolase, human, immunohistochemistry, nuclear magnetic resonance imaging, olfactory bulb, olfactory system, review, sensory system examination, sexual behavior, vomeronasal organ

European Journal of anatomy
ISSN 2340-311X (Online)