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Women's tears act as 'sexual turnoff' for men

Researchers in Israel say women's tears act as a major turnoff for men, their smell decreasing the level of testosterone hormones in males. Scientists say more work is needed to determine which chemical elicited the reaction in men.

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AFP - When women cry, their tears send out a chemical signal that puts a damper on men's sexual arousal, a study by Israeli researchers has found.

First, the scientists at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, asked women to watch scenes from a heart-wrenching 1979 US movie, "The Champ," in which a young boy weeps over the death of his boxer dad.

Then researchers collected the women's tears in vials and presented them to 24 men, aged 23 to 32, who did not know what they contained.

Some men sniffed control vials that contained odorless saline solution, and others sniffed vials containing women's tears. The men were not told what the vials contained.

Then, they were shown images of women's faces. Men who had smelled the tears found the images less attractive than the men who had sniffed saline solution.

Researchers also tested men's emotional responses by asking them to make judgments on the level of sadness or empathy they were seeing in the images of women's faces, and found that having sniffed tears had no impact.

They also showed men the sad movie and found that men's emotional response was unchanged, whether they had sniffed women's tears or not.

But across the board, the men who had sniffed tears described lower levels of sexual arousal when looking at the faces.

Further tests showed that the tear-sniffers experienced a "significant dip in testosterone -- a hormone related to sexual arousal," said the study published in the US journal Science.

And brain scans backed up those findings.

"The scans revealed a significant reduction in activity levels in brain areas associated with sexual arousal after the subjects had sniffed tears," said the study.

Researchers say more work is needed to determine precisely which chemical in the tears elicited the reaction in men, and what kind of effect tears from other groups, such as children, might have on adults.

"This study reinforces the idea that human chemical signals -- even ones we're not conscious of-- affect the behavior of others," said Noam Sobel, a professor in the Weizmann Institute's Neurobiology Department.

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