orgasm MRI female Female Brain During Orgasm Captured by fMRI

The female orgasm on fMRI

Scientists have used brain scan images to record the world’s first video of the female brain as it approaches, experiences and recovers from an orgasm. The animation reveals the steady buildup of activity in the brain as disparate regions flicker into life and then come together in a crescendo of activity before gently settling back down again.

To make the animation, researchers monitored a woman’s brain as she lay in a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanner and stimulated herself. The research will help scientists to understand how the brain conducts the symphony of activity that leads to sexual climax in a woman.

Nan Wise, a 54-year-old PhD student, sex therapist and associate on the research project, agreed to be the guinea pig. She was hooked up to a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanner and stimulated herself while the machine recorded her brain every two seconds, across 80 different regions, The Guardian reported.

Kayt Sukel before entering MRI orgasm Female Brain During Orgasm Captured by fMRI

The animation uses a “hot metal” colour scale that begins at dark red and progresses through orange and yellow to white at the highest levels of activity. Professor Barry Komisaruk and his team then spliced these snapshots together into an animated film. The movie is the first of its kind.

By studying people who have orgasms, Professor Barry Komisaruk, a psychologist at Rutgers University in New Jersey and his team hope to uncover what goes wrong in both men and women who cannot reach sexual climax.

“The general aim of this research is to understand how the orgasm builds up from genital stimulation and what parts of the brain become recruited and finally build up into an orgasm,” said Prof Komisaruk, who presented the work at the Society for Neuroscience annual meeting in Washington DC on Monday. The work has yet to be published in a peer-reviewed journal.

As the animation plays, activity first builds up in the genital area of the sensory cortex, a response to being touched in that region. Activity then spreads to the limbic system, a collection of brain structures involved in emotions and long-term memory.

As the orgasm arrives, activity shoots up in two parts of the brain called the cerebellum and the frontal cortex, perhaps because of greater muscle tension. During orgasm, activity reaches a peak in the hypothalamus, which releases a chemical called oxytocin that causes pleasurable sensations and stimulates the uterus to contract. Activity also peaks in the nucelus accumbens, an area linked to reward and pleaure. After orgasm, the activity in all these regions gradually calms down.

Source: guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2011