It appears that the physical stimulation of the clitoris and g-spot leads to orgasm because it triggers many important reactions in the female brain.
The female orgasm may remain one of the longest lasting mysteries of humanity, but recent advances in science are showing that orgasms seem to begin, and end, in the mind. While sex is very a much a physical act, it appears that the physical stimulation of the clitoris and g-spot leads to orgasm by setting off a multitude of reactions in the female brain.
(Perhaps the profound mental component of orgasm is why so many women including muself seek out partners with whom we have strong energetic, psychological and emotional connections…or maybe this has to do with the release of oxytocin, discussed later).
Psychologist Barry M. Komisaruk and his team at Rutgers University have used fMRI technology to visually map the brain patterns of nine women who stimulated themselves to orgasm while inside an MRI machine. Snapshots were taken and compiled into this 3D video that demonstrates the utilization of oxygen in different regions of the brain over a 7-minute period. (The progression from red to hot yellow-white indicates synapses firing and increasing oxygen levels).
The results were so astounding, with over 80 separate areas of the brain changing in intensity before, during and after orgasm, that Komisaruk called female orgasm a “brain symphony,” noting that only an epileptic seizure would stimulate a woman’s brain more.
The stimulated regions of the brain include those related to touch, memory, depression, anxiety, reward, and even pain. Specifically, the team found stimulation in the anterior cingulate cortex and the insula, areas commonly involved in pain regulation. Perhaps this explains why orgasms typically have a pain-relieving, anti-anxiety effect upon the female nervous system. As women approached orgasm, the centers responsible for emotional regulation, pain and anxiety began to shut down until they were almost completely turned off at the time of orgasm. Perhaps this finding might be utilized to help reduce pain and anxiety in women in the future?
According to the findings, during the “brain symphony” the following areas are stimulated as a woman approaches orgasm:
- Para-central Lobule: This area is responsible for motor and sensory functions of the lower body, specifically it is the genital sensory projection zone.
- Limbic System: Our evolved “primitive brain”, responsible for regulating many of our emotions and motivations, specifically the:
- Insula: Involved in consciousness, homeostasis, pain regulation, motor control, perception, self-awareness, cognitive functioning.
- Anterior cingulate: Plays role in autonomic functions like regulating blood pressure and heart rate, as well as rational cognitive functioning such as decision making, emotion and impulse control.
- Amygdala: Plays an important role in processing of memory, decision-making, and emotion
- Hippocampus: Important in short-term and long-term memory as well as spatial navigation.
- Cerebellum: This area is involved in motor control, probably stimulated due to the changes in muscle tension as women approach orgasm.
- Nucleus accumbens: This area plays a significant role in the cognitive processing of motivation, pleasure, reward, reinforcement learning, addiction, fear, and impulsivity. As women orgasm, this reward and pleasure center is triggered.
- Hypothalamus: This area is responsible for certain metabolic processes, such as the regulation of temperature, tiredness, hunger and thirst, as well as the secretion of specific hormones. When women orgasm, the hypothalamus releases oxytocin, also known as the “cuddle hormone,” which enhances feelings of empathy, bonding and trust. Researchers have argued that the release of oxytocin during orgasm is why women fall in love more quickly after sex than males, who receive a surge of the pleasure chemical dopamine, as opposed to oxytocin, after sex.
Komisaruk and his team were excited by the potential therapeutic implications for women who struggle to orgasm (termed ‘anorgasmic’) because it will be possible to compare their brain patterns to those of women who do orgasm, and determine where the orgasm gets blocked. In the future, he hopes employ neuro-feedback to help women learn to manipulate their brain activity to bring it closer to that of an orgasmic pattern of activity.
How does orgasm in the male brain compare? Does it look like a few notes or is it also its own complex symphony? We are still unsure how orgasm unfolds in the male brain, although Komisaruk and his team are currently studying this. Perhaps findings on the mechanism of orgasm in the male brain will shed light on the different sexual experiences and expectations of men and women, and will help bridge the gap between the two genders.
Credits: The Lucid Planet.