A group of US neuroscientists have been studying why the scent of sweat from terrified people causes other people go into the hyper-alert fight-or-flight mode. People smelling this "stress sweat" in fMRI brain scanners show activity in the emotion-processing amygdala, and are 43 percent more accurate at identifying whether a face was "threatening." Now those researchers want to synthesize vats of the fear-inducing sweat chemicals.

About the study, New Scientist writes:

The researchers do, however, have suspicions about what the active chemical might be. The steroid androstadienone is the primary suspect, and [lead researcher Lilianne] Mujica-Parodi's team say it plans to synthesise it.

"I'm not naïve about the fact that some people will look at this study and say it was irresponsible," says Mujica-Parodi. There are obvious ethical issues about synthesising a chemical that could induce fear in other people, and the group's early research was funded by the US military.

I'm glad Mujica-Parodi isn't naive about what other people will think. But isn't she being a little naive about what other people will do with this stuff if she successfully recreates it?

via New Scientist