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Lab Rats Hate Men Because They Smell, Science Says

Maybe they just really hate the smell of Axe body spray.
Ugh, it smells like man in here. (Wikimedia Commons)

Ugh, it smells like man in here. (Wikimedia Commons)

Researchers at Canada’s McGill University recently determined that lab rats get freaked out by the smell of men. Same with the Betabeat staff!

The study, published in Nature Methods, set out to discover whether a researcher’s gender could influence tests of pain conducted on rats and mice, the Daily Mail reports.

The researchers reportedly placed T-shirts worn by male and female researchers next to the rodents, and gauged their reactions to the garments’ scents. They concluded that rats and mice get much more stressed out by the smell of male researchers than female researchers — likely because men emit more pheromones than women, the Daily Mail explains. Because rats and mice are so darn stressed around male researchers, and stress blocks pain, they’re less likely to sense pain when they undergo medical experiments conducted by men, which could skew the tests’ outcomes.

Here’s the researchers’ summary of their experiment, which uses the amazing phrase “gonadally intact”:

“We found that exposure of mice and rats to male but not female experimenters produces pain inhibition. Male-related stimuli induced a robust physiological stress response that results in stress-induced analgesia. This effect could be replicated with T-shirts worn by men, bedding material from gonadally intact and unfamiliar male mammals, and presentation of compounds secreted from the human axilla. Experimenter sex can thus affect apparent baseline responses in behavioral testing.”

The researchers say that in the future, studies should indicate the scientists’ genders. They also recommend that male researchers spend more time chillin’ with the lab rats prior to the experiment, so the rodents can get used to their icky man stench before the testing begins.

We reached out to our good friend who works in a facility that conducts experiments on rats, to see if the study’s findings matched her own experiences. We asked if the rats seem to like her more than her male coworkers.

“Haha — no, that’s not true at all in my experience,” she said. “We have a ton of male scientists here. It might be something with male/female rats though. We only use male rats at my facility.”

We guess this one’ll remain a mystery.

Follow Jordyn Taylor on Twitter or via RSS. jtaylor@observer.com