• axillary odour;
  • adaptation;
  • cross-adaptation;
  • fragrance chemicals;
  • gender differences;
  • odour perception


The human axillae have a characteristic odour that is comprised of or generated from a mixture of C6–C11 normal, branched, hydroxy- and unsaturated acids (and other compounds). We used ethyl esters of one of these acids and a palette of fragrance compounds (tested individually) to evaluate the effectiveness of these chemicals to reduce the overall olfactory impact of a model of human stress-related odour (SRO) by cross-adaptation (adaptation to one odorant can reduce sensitivity to other odorants). Sensory volunteers provided hedonic and intensity ratings of the SRO and of each of the potential cross-adapting agents prior to 2.5 min of induced olfactory adaptation to each agent. Across adaptation, possible cross-adaptation was evaluated by intermittent evaluations of the perceived intensity of the SRO. We determined that some potential cross-adapting agents did reduce the impact of the SRO; however, the same chemicals were not necessarily effective for male and female SRO. Indeed, the list of effective chemicals depended upon the gender of the donor of the SRO and the gender of the sensory volunteer, suggesting a gender-specific response to both the SRO-stimuli used and the fragrance chemicals used to cross-adapt it. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.