Wednesday, 6 July 2005

Keep Your Socks On

Yet another Brain/Sex post.

From LiveScience :
New research indicates that parts of the brain that govern fear and anxiety are switched off when a woman is having an orgasm.

In the first study to map brain function during orgasm, scientists from the Netherlands also found that as a woman climaxes, an area of the brain that governs emotional control is also heavily deactivated.
The volunteers laid on a scanning machine bed and were injected with a dye that shows changes in brain function on a scan. For the men, the brain scanner tracked activity during rest, during erection, during manual stimulation by their partner and then during ejaculation, brought on by the partner's hand.

For the women, the scanner measured brain activity during rest, while they faked an orgasm, during manual stimulation by their partner, and while they experienced genuine orgasm.

Holstege said he had trouble getting reliable results from the study on men because the scanning machine needs activities lasting at least two minutes to record an activity. But the men's climaxes didn't last anywhere near that long, meaning he could not reliably compare the scans before climax and during.

However, for women, the results were clear, he said.
Implying that theirs lasted at least 2 minutes.... a mind-boggling concept for a male to ponder upon.

From the Times Online article on the same subject :
Men and women experience sexual pleasure in strikingly different ways, the first brain scans taken during orgasm show.

While male brains focus heavily on the physical stimulation involved in sexual contact, this is just one part of a much more complex picture for women, scientists in the Netherlands have found. The key to female arousal seems rather to be deep relaxation and a lack of anxiety: direct sensory input from the genitals plays a less critical role.

The scans show that during sexual activity the parts of the female brain responsible for processing fear, anxiety and emotion start to relax and reduce in activity. This reaches a peak at orgasm, when the female brain’s emotion centres are effectively closed down to an almost trance-like state.
This suggests that for men the physical aspects of sex play a much more significant part in arousal than they do for women, for whom ambience, mood and relaxation are at least as important.
No surprise to any female readers, here. But here's one very useful snippet of information :
The experiments also revealed a surprising fact: both sexes found it easier to have an orgasm when they kept their socks on. Draughts in the scanning room left couples complaining of “literally cold feet”, and providing a pair of socks allowed 80 per cent, rather than 50 per cent, to reach a climax while being scanned.
So girls, the next time he wants you to wear high heels during certain healthy and relaxing activities, make sure they're warm ones.

From the Times Health Section :
The subjects’ heads were restrained in the PET scanner during the procedure, as it only works if the body area being scanned remains still. The dimensions of the scanner and the need for stillness also explain why the researchers were unable to study intercourse itself.

In both sexes, activity in the amygdala, which processes fear and anxiety, was reduced during stimulation. Women, but not men, showed lower activity in the hippocampus, important for memory, as well.

In men, greater activity was seen in the insula, which deals with emotion, and particularly in the secondary somatosensory cortex, which rates the significance of physical sensations. This suggests that the sensory input coming from the genitals is being judged highly important and pleasurable by the brain.

Women, however, show very little increased brain activity, and only in the primary somatosensory cortex - which registers purely that a sensation in the genitals is there."In women the primary feeling is there, but not the marker that this is seen as a big deal," Dr Holstege said."For males, touch itself is all-important. For females, it is not so important."

As orgasm lasts much longer in women than in men, it is easier to study using PET - male ejaculation is over so quickly it is hard to get a reliable reading. The scans showed that in the female orgasm, activity is reduced across all the brain regions - conscious and subconscious - that handle emotion, including the amygdale, medial prefrontal cortex and orbitofrontal cortex.

"What this means is that deactivation, letting go of all fear and anxiety, might be the most important thing, even necessary, to have an orgasm," Dr Holstege said.
In other words, when you're with someone you trust and love, just relax and let it happen....

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