- Here’s What Happens to Your Body And Brain When You Orgasm
- Genitals Communicate with the Brain
- Neurochemicals Give Off the ‘Euphoric’ Feeling
- Male and Female Brain Similar to Being on Heroin
- Women Can’t ‘Fake It Till They Make It’ (in an MRI)
- Your Brain Pre-Orgasm
- Your Brain During Orgasm
- Studies Used:
- Female Orgasm – Brain Activity Captured In FMRI Imaging Device
- How do orgasms affect the brain? Study investigates
- How rhythmic stimulation can induce a ‘sexual trance’
- Brain responses to orgasms and rhythmic music, dance are comparable
- What Goes On In A Woman’s Brain When She Has An Orgasm. It’s Complicated.
Here’s What Happens to Your Body And Brain When You Orgasm
Though you don’t need to have an orgasm to find sex pleasurable, it’s definitely a great bonus.
In order to figure out what’s going on our brains when we climax, researchers use fMRI (Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) Machines or a PET (Positron Emission Tomography) scans. These devices can measure the blood flow and neuron activity in the brain.
By studying the brain activity of people having orgasms in these machines, scientists have learned some pretty amazing stuff. INSIDER consulted with experts to find out exactly what happens in your brain when you have an orgasm.
1. The logical part of your brain basically shuts down during sex.
There’s a reason why people tend to feel bolder and less inhibited during sex – the part of your brain in charge of your logical reasoning skills temporarily goes on vacation.
“The lateral orbitofrontal cortex becomes less active during sex. This is the part of the brain that is responsible for reason, decision making, and value judgments. The deactivation of this part of the brain is also associated with decreases in fear and anxiety,” clinical psychologist Daniel Sher told INSIDER.
This shutdown of the lateral orbitofrontal cortex actually makes sense, as fear and anxiety can interrupt arousal and lead to problems like performance anxiety.
2. Multiple spatially remote parts of your brain are involved in having an orgasm.
Medical imaging tests suggest there are multiple spatially remote brain regions that are involved in sexual response.
“Researchers have found that genital sensory cortex, motor areas, hypothalamus, thalamus, and substantia nigra all light up during the big O,” cognitive psychologist Kayt Sukel explained to INSIDER.
The thalamus helps integrate information about touch, movement, and any sexual memories or fantasies that someone might call upon to help them reach orgasm. Meanwhile, the hypothalamus is busy producing oxytocin and may help coordinate arousal.
“Motor areas are also involved because the body is (hopefully) moving during the act, and the genital sensory cortex is registering touches to the body’s nether regions,” Sukel added.
3. When you orgasm, your brain releases a surge of dopamine.
During orgasm, your brain is working overtime to produce a slew of different hormones and neurochemicals. One of these is dopamine, a hormone that is responsible for feelings of pleasure, desire, and motivation.
As Sher explained, dopamine is formed in a part of the brain called the ventral tegmental area and released into other parts such as the nucleus accumbens and prefrontal cortex.
“Some refer to dopamine as a ‘pleasure’ chemical – though research has shown it offers us much more than just a good time. It’s really more of a learning chemical, helping to take notice of rewards like food and sex, and figure out how to get more of them,” said Sukel.
4. Oxytocin is released during both orgasm and breastfeeding.
Another hormone that the brain makes during orgasm is oxytocin. Secreted by the pituitary gland and released in the hypothalamus, this hormone makes us feel close to others and promotes affection.
“Oxytocin is known as the bonding hormone because it’s also released during breastfeeding and is known to facilitate a sense of love and attachment,” said Sher.
Prolactin is also released during orgasm and is responsible for that feeling of satisfaction that accompanies orgasm. It’s also the main hormone responsible for milk production following pregnancy.
Of course, the release of oxytocin and prolactin during both sex and breastfeeding doesn’t mean a person experiences the same sensations in both situations.
These hormones can play different roles in our bodies and are part of the brain’s way of strengthening our social connections.
5. Having an orgasm stimulates your brain in the same way as doing drugs or listening to your favourite music.
Surprisingly, the brain doesn’t differentiate much between sex and other pleasurable experiences. The parts of your brain that make you feel good after indulging in dessert or winning at poker are the same areas that light up during orgasm.
“Sex is experienced as pleasurable and this is because the reward pathways in our brains are activated during and leading up to orgasm. These are the very same networks that are activated in response to drug use, alcohol consumption, gambling, listening to your favourite song or enjoying a delicious meal,” said Sher.
6. Your brain gives off chemicals that make you less sensitive to pain during sex.
It’s not your imagination – the body really is less sensitive to pain during sex.
“As the pituitary gland is activated, the release of endorphins, oxytocin, and vasopressin promote pain reduction, intimacy, and bonding,” Jess O’Reilly, Astroglide’s resident sexologist told INSIDER.
This may help explain why things that might make us wince in a non-sexual situation, like smacking or hair-pulling, aren’t as painful during sex and can even be pleasurable.
7. Orgasm and pain actually activate some of the same brain areas.
The reason that some people derive sexual pleasure from experiencing pain might be related to the fact that orgasm and pain actually affect a few of the same areas of the brain.
“Several of the areas of the brain (namely, within the cortex) that are responsible for pain are active during orgasm,” revealed Sher.
Although the relationship between pain and orgasm isn’t yet fully understood, some research has shown that vaginal stimulation might actually reduce pain sensitivity in some people.
8. After an orgasm, the brain releases hormones that can make you feel happy and sleepy.
Once an orgasm has occurred, your brain tends to slow down. But it doesn’t go off-duty entirely.
“In both men and women, the orgasm signals the parasympathetic nervous system to start down-regulating (or calming) the body. The prefrontal cortex, which was previously activated leading up to orgasm, also becomes down-regulated – and this is linked to increased levels of oxytocin to facilitate attachment,” explained Sher.
Sukel added that the brain also churns out serotonin after an orgasm. This hormone is known to promote good mood and relaxation. In some people, serotonin can also lead to drowsiness and the desire to curl up for a nap.
9. However, the brains of women tend to keep releasing oxytocin even after orgasm.
All brains experience the release of oxytocin during sex, which is a hormone responsible in part for creating feelings of closeness and bonding. However, the brains of women behave a little differently after orgasm.
“In women, oxytocin tends to continue to be released after orgasm, which may explain the motivation for post-coital cuddles,” noted Sher.
10. In people who are unable to feel genital stimulation, the brain might actually remap itself to allow them to reach orgasm.
Though we usually think of orgasm and sexual pleasure as being dependent on the stimulation of our genitals, that’s not entirely true. In some cases, the brain can create new pathways to pleasure that don’t involve our sexual organs at all.
“When organs are injured or removed, remapping of the senses may occur allowing us to experience sexual and orgasmic sensations in other body parts,” O’Rielly explained.
In people who have suffered lower body paralysis, for example, the brain might actually rewire itself in order to allow a person to achieve orgasm through stimulation of other body parts, such as the skin of the arm or the nipples.
It’s possible for some people to orgasm from the touching of skin. ()
11. Orgasms might be nature’s way of ‘tricking’ us into reproducing.
Orgasms are undoubtedly a good time, but they also might be the brain’s sneaky way of getting us to reproduce.
“If you think about it objectively, the idea of risking your life and health to birth what’s basically a parasite living in you for nine months, which you then have to raise for the next decade, is a lot of work. Mother Nature may be ‘tricking’ us to make sure the species doesn’t die out,” said Sukel.
Though scientists aren’t entirely sure why we have orgasms, Sher pointed out that experiencing a moment or two of pure euphoria effectively rewards us for having sex. It reinforces this behaviour and keeps us coming back for more.
12. Having an orgasm might actually help keep your brain healthy.
Along with enticing us to reproduce, orgasming might also help keep our brains healthy.
“It may also be that, evolutionarily speaking, since this activity increases blood flow across the brain so dramatically, it may have developed in part to help keep the brain healthy, too,” explained Sukel.
Research has also suggested that female orgasm may have once played a role in stimulating ovulation, though now ovulation occurs spontaneously and doesn’t depend on sexual activity.
This article was originally published by Business Insider.
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The moment your clothes come off, and you’re in bed with your partner turning up the heat in between the sheets, your heart is racing, blood is pumping, and muscles are tensing up. As you and your partner strive to reach the big “O” — an orgasm — your body is filled with the intensity and tingling sensations of a promising sexual climax. Overcome with a feeling of euphoria as a surge of blood rushes to the genitals, what exactly happens to the brain when you have an orgasm?
Genitals Communicate with the Brain
During sex, our brain acts as a “pleasure center” to let us know what is enjoyable and what is not. The different nerves in the genitalia communicate with the brain about the sensation experienced. This can help explain why sensations can be perceived differently depending on what part of the body the person is being touched. A French study found women experience two different kinds of orgasms — clitoral and vaginal — that differ in blood flow and sensations. These orgasms also contain a different set of nerves. The clitoris, which extends along both sides of the vulva underlying the labia minora, is erectile with arousal as it has more than 8,000 nerve endings.
For men and women, there are four types of nerves responsible for sending information to the brain during an orgasm. The hypogastric nerve transmits signals from the uterus and the cervix in women, and from the prostate in men; the pelvic nerve transmits signals from the vagina and cervix in women, and from the rectum in both sexes; the pudendal nerve transmits from the clitoris in women, and from the scrotum and penis in men; and the vagus nerve transmits from the cervix, uterus, and vagina in women.
Neurochemicals Give Off the ‘Euphoric’ Feeling
The “cloud nine” feeling reported by many during sex is linked to the nerves sent to the brain’s pleasure center, or reward circuit. The sexual arousals felt in the body flood the brain with a surge of neurochemicals, which are chemical messengers that forge emotions, feelings of attachment, and even love, according to Psychology Today. The level of pleasure is contingent on the release of these chemicals that can be used to measure the intensity of your climax. The areas of the brain impacted by sexual arousal include the amygdala, nucleus accumbens, ventral tegmental area (VTA), cerebellum, and the pituitary gland.
Male and Female Brain Similar to Being on Heroin
Although both sexes tend to engage in different behaviors during sex, the brains of men and women are not all that different. During an orgasm, the lateral orbitofrontal cortex — the brain region behind the left eye — shuts down during an orgasm. This region is considered to be the voice of reason and controls behavior. The brain of both a man and woman is said to look much like the brain of a person taking heroin during an orgasm, according to a study published in the Journal of Neuroscience.
A difference between the two sexes lies in the periaqueductal gray (PAG) — the part of the brain that is activated when a woman has sex. The PAG is not activated in men when they reach an orgasm. Moreover, women will experience a decrease in the amygdala and hippocampus — which help monitor fear and anxiety — during an orgasm.
Women Can’t ‘Fake It Till They Make It’ (in an MRI)
Women are notoriously known for faking orgasms out of pity for their partners, or to convince themselves the sex is good, but an MRI scan can show the truth. In an MRI scan, the brain is able to identify whether women were actually experiencing an orgasm. When the women were asked to fake an orgasm, their brain activity increased in the cerebellum and other areas related to movement control, but this brain activity was not seen during an actual orgasm.
Overall, an orgasm is the body’s physiological response to sexual stimulation, and involves involuntary body movements and vocalizations. This has a similar effect on the brain to that of an addictive substance, such as heroin. Men and women tend to have similar brain activity during an orgasm, despite the different emotions and behaviors displayed by both genders.
For decades, scientists have been sure that the brain plays an important role in achieving orgasm, but little was known about which parts of the brain were involved. They wondered, for instance, whether there was a unique “orgasm center” in the brain responsible for that wondrous point of climax (spoiler: there’s not).
One of the scientists leading the way is Janniko Georgiadis (PhD) from the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. Since the early 2000s, Georgiadis and his team have been using positron emission tomography (PET) scanners, a neuroimaging device similar to an MRI machine, to track brain activity prior to, during, and after orgasm.
They discovered that many parts of the brain work together to create the distinct mental states and physiological responses that occur during arousal and climax. They also discovered that understanding which parts of the brain shut down is just as important as which are active.
It’s important to note that there are limitations to these studies. Technology is not yet advanced enough to let us peek into the brain during a natural sexual encounter. Far from the more comfortable environment of the bedroom, volunteers lie on scanner beds and use the helping hand of a partner to reach orgasm.
The studies miss out on what happens to the brain leading up to sex, such as during foreplay. Instead, brain mapping starts with stimulation of the genital areas and goes until just past the point of orgasm which, for the purpose of the studies, is defined as the moment of ejaculation in men and involuntary pelvic muscle spasms in women.
Limitations aside, what the studies reveal about brain activity during an orgasm is fascinating and goes a long way to helping us understand just what’s happening when we reach that lush pinnacle of pleasure.
Your Brain Pre-Orgasm
Genital stimulation activates the part of the parietal lobe known as the secondary somatosensory cortex (SII), which interprets touch. One study theorizes that the SII is responsible for labeling the quality of sensation, such as whether it’s a sexual touch or not. (Georgiadis, 2006)
As arousal intensifies, blood flow decreased to the prefrontal and temporal areas, such as the amygdala and the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC), both of which help us process emotions, fear, and risk — all important parts of cognitive thinking and decision-making (Georgiadis, 2011).
In other words, it slows down the part of our brain that does most of cognitive thinking and analysis.
During a state of extreme arousal, blood flow increases to the cerebellum, which interprets the physical sensations of the genital area. The cerebellum plays an important role in emotional processing. (Georgiadis, 2006, 2007, 2011)
Your Brain During Orgasm
The cerebellum stays active during orgasm and may trigger involuntary muscle contractions. Similarly, the medulla oblongata is active when men ejaculate. The medulla oblongata is a part of the brain stem which is responsible for involuntary movements (Georgiadis, 2007).
Previously, scientists believed that the ventral tegmental area (VTA), a crucial piece of the brain’s reward system and the dopamine pathway, played an important role in an orgasm. But across multiple studies, Georgiadis found the VTA was just as active when someone imitates the physical sensations of an orgasm (clenching the pelvic floor muscles) or is stimulated without climaxing.
Basically, our bodies release dopamine throughout a sexual experience, which makes it feel good whether we actually climax or not. (Georgiadis, 2006 and 2007).
Key among the studies’ findings is the dramatic loss of blood flow to the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) during orgasm. The OFC works to track the cause and effect of various activities when you’re striving for pleasure. For instance, the OFC is activated when you eat beyond fullness and feel uncomfortable.
Georgiadis theorizes that the OFC has to shut down in order to achieve that poignant feeling of being “out-of-control” during orgasm.
Interestingly, the OFC is triggered when someone attempts to reach orgasm and fails, as well as when someone actively tries to not come (Georgiadis, 2011 and 2006b). This seems to indicate that we get lost in the whole experience.
Although suppression of brain activity in the OFC was key for Georgiadis and his team, other studies contradictorily found increased activity in the prefrontal cortex where the OFC is housed (Whipple, 2008).
After an orgasm, the frontal and temporal parts of the cerebral cortex involved in decision making and moral thinking turn back on. We turn back into our thinking, logical selves–no longer under the spell of sexual arousal.
The other most active area of the brain is the hypothalamus, which produces oxytocin and dopamine and encourages bonding between partners (Georgiadis, 2011).
As Georgiadis notes in one of his papers, “the study of how the brain comes to produce orgasm is still in its infancy” (Georgiadis, 2011), and there’s much more left to uncover. Research of this kind has practical uses, such as discovering the causes of anorgasmia (an inability to reach orgasm) or other sexual dysfunctions.
This answer is provided by Melinda Wenner of Scienceline, a project of New York University’s Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program.
For many women, the correlation between sex and snoring is one of those annoying facts of life: no matter when passionate encounters occur, men always seem to fall asleep immediately afterwards. Dave Zinczenko, the author of “Men, Love and Sex: The Complete User Guide For Women,” explained the phenomenon to Huffington Post writer Arianna Huffington this way: “Men go to sleep because women don’t turn into a pizza.”
I doubt I am ever going to become a pizza, and I’ll never have the foresight to order one beforehand. So in lieu of a cure, a better explanation will have to do. Although women sometimes feel sleepy after sex, the phenomenon does seem more pronounced in men. What is it, then, that spirals them into the land of nod?
First, the obvious reasons for sex’s somnolent sway: the act frequently takes place at night, in a bed, and is, after all, physically exhausting (often more so for the man than the woman, although this certainly varies). So when sex is over, it’s natural for a guy to feel sleepy.
Secondly, research using positron emission tomography (PET) scans has shown that in order for a person to reach orgasm, a primary requirement is to let go of “all fear and anxiety.” Doing so also tends to be relaxing and might explain the tendency to snooze.
Then there is the biochemistry of the orgasm itself. Research shows that during ejaculation, men release a cocktail of brain chemicals, including norepinephrine, serotonin, oxytocin, vasopressin, nitric oxide (NO), and the hormone prolactin. The release of prolactin is linked to the feeling of sexual satisfaction, and it also mediates the “recovery time” that men are well aware of—the time a guy must wait before “giving it another go.” Studies have also shown that men deficient in prolactin have faster recovery times.
Prolactin levels are naturally higher during sleep, and animals injected with the chemical become tired immediately. This suggests a strong link between prolactin and sleep, so it’s likely that the hormone’s release during orgasm causes men to feel sleepy.
(Side note: prolactin also explains why men are sleepier after intercourse than after masturbation. For unknown reasons, intercourse orgasms release four times more prolactin than masturbatory orgasms, according to a recent study.)
Oxytocin and vasopressin, two other chemicals released during orgasm, are also associated with sleep. Their release frequently accompanies that of melatonin, the primary hormone that regulates our body clocks. Oxytocin is also thought to reduce stress levels, which again could lead to relaxation and sleepiness.
What about the evolutionary reasons for post-sex sleepiness? This is trickier to explain. Evolutionarily speaking, a man’s primary goal is to produce as many offspring as possible, and sleeping doesn’t exactly help in his quest. But perhaps since he cannot immediately run off with another woman anyway — damn that recovery time! — re-energizing himself via sleep may be the best use of his time.
And although there is conflicting information as to whether women feel sleepy after sex, a woman often falls asleep with the man anyway (or uses it for some key cuddling time), which is good news for him: it means she is not off finding another mate. When the man wakes up and she’s still there, he just might be ready to go again.
It’s also possible that sleepiness is just a “side effect” associated with a more evolutionarily important reason for the release of oxytocin and vasopressin. In addition to being associated with sleep, both chemicals are also intimately involved in what is called “pair bonding,” the social attachment human mates commonly share. The release of these brain chemicals during orgasm heightens feelings of bonding and trust between sexual partners, which may partially explain the link between sex and emotional attachment. This bond is favorable should the couple have a baby, as cooperative child rearing maximizes the young one’s chances for survival.
The bottom line is this: There are many potential biochemical and evolutionary reasons for post-sex sleepiness, some direct and some indirect — but no one has yet pinpointed the exact causes. One thing, however, is certain: we females better get used to it, because it doesn’t look likely to change anytime soon.
I will leave frustrated American women with one final thought: if you are upset at the ubiquity of the post-sex snoring phenomenon, remember that things could be a lot worse. A recent survey of 10,000 English men revealed that 48 percent actually fall asleep during sex.
Talk about coitus interruptus!
This answer is provided by Scienceline, a project of New York University’s Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program.
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Women who masturbated in an MRI machine helped scientists show that, from buildup to peak, an orgasm lights up your brain like the night sky on the Fourth of July. Here’s what’s going on in your mind while you’re getting it on.
At First Touch
The brain’s genital sensory cortex region fires up. “We found that the clitoris, vagina, and cervix each stimulate different parts of the cortex,” says behavioral neuroscientist Barry R. Komisaruk, Ph.D., who led the MRI study “Because each can produce an orgasm independently”—and here’s your takeaway—”stimulating several at once may lead to more intense, more pleasurable orgasms.”
Continued stimulation stokes your hippocampus, a region known to evoke dreamlike memories. (Remember sex in the car with the top down in that rented convertible? Good times.) Also activated is the amygdala, involved in emotional expression and intense feelings. Though researchers don’t know exactly what kind of emotions you experience, we’ve got a guess: They’re positive.
At the start of an orgasm, the cerebellum triggers tension in your thighs, butt, and abs, while the frontal cortex—the brain’s controller of planning and abstract thought—kicks in, kicking off more sexual fantasies. (David Beckham? Mark Ruffalo? We won’t tell.) The anterior cingulate cortex and insula turn on. These regions may inhibit pain so that you feel the exact opposite: pleasure.
The hypothalamus releases oxytocin, causing uterine contractions that generate those sensational O sensations. The moment isn’t purely physical: Oxytocin, a.k.a. the “love hormone,” also promotes bonding (what this means when you’re flying solo, Komisaruk isn’t sure). As the nucleus accumbens, or “pleasure center,” receives dopamine, you fly even higher.
Lights out in the brain. Everything cools down while you bask in the afterglow.
“As you reach orgasm, your hypothalamus goes into overdrive, preparing your body for that feel-good orgasm,” says Brahmbhatt. “There’s a release of oxytocin and increases in dopamine as your vaginal walls start to contract.” In fact, oxytocin wipes out cortisol, the major stress hormone. “Most of us exist with high cortisol levels,” notes Anami. “Oxytocin balances this out, leaving you feeling content, relaxed, and sociable.”
“You may even have a reflex in your hands and feet (which is why you may clench your hands to the bed or your partner’s body),” adds Brahmbhatt. “These sensations may feel like a total loss of control, but the reality is that your body is fully in control.” Anami continues, “You release serotonin and DHEA at climax. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that regulates your mood and makes you feel peaceful, happy, and hopeful. DHEA has antidepressant effects and boosts immunity.” Essentially, if you boost your orgasm quota, you will boost your mood.
“Afterward,” Brahmbhatt says, “your clitoral area (in women) loses its excess blood and returns to a more relaxed state. The release will leave you feeling really good, even though technically your increase in dopamine and oxytocin drops fairly quickly.”
This article was originally published at an earlier date and has since been updated. Next up: How to Deal with Money-Related Anxiety Because It’s Overwhelming AF.
But Ramsey’s PGAD began with lower back pain caused by a fall. “This isn’t in my head,” she says. “It’s a neurological disorder that isn’t getting the appropriate attention.” Goldmeier’s report also mentions the correlation between PGAD and the use of SSRI antidepressants. Kellie noticed symptoms as soon as she began a course of antidepressants. She came off the medication immediately, then found herself suffering from restless leg syndrome and an overactive bladder. Both of these conditions are related to PGAD. Like Kellie, Rebecca, abruptly came off SSRIs before she became ill. Rebecca has now lived with PGAD for around 12 years.
A standard medication for PGAD doesn’t exist. The condition is treated with everything from anti-neuralgic medicine usually prescribed for Parkinson’s disease, to, in some cases, Botox injections. The symptoms can be calmed, but not cured, and the permanent frustration can have severe effects on mental health.
In 2012, two women with PGAD, one in the US and one in the Netherlands, killed themselves. Gretchen Molannen from Florida, who was a member of the same online support group as Ramsey, was 39 when she took her life. She had lived with PGAD for 16 years. Ramsey, who never actually met Molannen but had emailed with her, and other group members contributed to the cost of her funeral.
Ramsey says that the two deaths had a profound effect on her and many of her fellow PGAD sufferers. They realised just how destructive the illness can be when the right help isn’t available. With such little research into the condition and the media so often treating women with PGAD as freaks of nature, this is regularly the case.
Ramsey, who shared her story with the Sun in the hope of raising awareness of the condition, was understandably furious when she saw the lurid headline. What’s more, the article had been cut down to a few sentences, focusing almost entirely on her persistent orgasms, and far removed from the context of PGAD as an illness. “It was a sensational, ugly article,” says Ramsey. She raised the issue with the Press Complaints Commission, and her complaint was upheld.
But Ramsey had already, reluctantly perhaps, become a kind of poster girl for PGAD. Having emigrated to the US, she became a regular fixture in the American media when it came to stories about the illness. At one point, she had reporters showing up at her door and her name was quoted by journalists who hadn’t even bothered to talk to her. All of the women I spoke to about their experiences with PGAD were concerned, first and foremost, that I would treat their stories with sensitivity.
“We don’t get handled like humans,” says Ramsey. “Nobody wants to be labelled a slut; those sorts of stains are indelible.” In terms of “embarrassing” illnesses, a woman with persistent arousal is about as taboo as they come, and shame has come to play an enormous part in PGAD. According to Goldmeier, the condition is likely to be rare. In a survey of 100 women he carried out in a sexual health clinic, only one had PGAD. But, because of the stigma attached to the illness, it’s hard to know how many women are living with it and are too afraid or ashamed to seek medical attention. When Ramsey began to appear in the media in stories about PGAD, many acquaintances stopped speaking to her. ” I thought the black community in America would accept me,” she says, “Absolutely not. I got shunned all over the place. I know what it’s like to be a leper.”
Similarly, Kellie feels that she can’t discuss her PGAD with friends. “I have to pretend I have a bladder problem,” she says, “I call it my ‘bladder issue’.” What’s more, even doctors can’t be relied on for those with the condition. “Some doctors don’t even know what it is,” says Kellie, “I had to search hard to find one who did.”When she first saw a doctor about her PGAD, she was treated like a fantasist. “I was crying and needing help,” she says, “But he just looked at me like I was making it up.”
Ramsey feels that the sexual health industry focuses on other problems, such as erectile dysfunction and inability to reach orgasm, while PGAD is largely ignored. “Good girls don’t talk about sex,” she jokes, bitterly. For this reason, she’s a member of the American Association of Sexual Educators, Counsellors and Therapists (Aasect), and is hoping to educate people about PGAD. Women with the condition are often forced to be their own advocates, and she wants to help them. In the meantime? Ramsey quotes Winston Churchill: “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”
Do you think you suffer from premature ejaculation? Don’t fret — here are some tips and techniques to help you slow it down.
By Martin Downs
Reviewed By Michael Smith
You don’t have to admit it to your buddies. You don’t have to stand up in a support group and say, “My name is … ” It’s enough to admit to yourself that sometimes you climax too quickly during sex; or at times, you’re not able to ejaculate at all.
Or perhaps your sexual performance satisfies all concerned. If that’s so, you’ve probably heard and heeded the following advice.
Premature Ejaculation: Strategies for Staying
Are you a premature ejaculator? The answer is another question: Do you think you are? It’s subjective.
A man may ejaculate before intercourse even begins. Few would doubt that counts as “premature.” But what if you typically reach orgasm after only a minute or so? You may consider yourself a premature ejaculator then, if your goal is take a woman to extremes of ecstasy. But there are problems with that conclusion.
First, it assumes she’ll have an orgasm if you last longer, because women tend to climax later than men do. “There’s a lot more to it than thrusting,” says sex educator Beverly Whipple, PhD. Many women simply don’t have orgasms with their partners, while they do on their own. Second, some women don’t have orgasms though vaginal intercourse. Only clitoral stimulation does it for them. So don’t think that once you master your orgasm, you’ll master hers, too. What’s more, Whipple says, if you focus solely on your stamina during intercourse, “you miss out on a whole lot of the fun along the way.”
That said, here’s what you can do.
Wrap it. Some men find the sensation of sex without a condom too intense, causing them to lose control quickly. Think about when your troubles began. Perhaps you always used condoms while you were roving; then when you got a monogamous partner you shucked them.
Over-sensitivity doesn’t seem to be the main cause of premature ejaculation, however. The problem is usually pinned on anxiety and inexperience.
Know yourself. It may have been in our evolutionary best interest to ejaculate quickly: Impregnate the female and move on before predators find you in a compromising position. According to this theory, “The ability to prolong intercourse is a learned response,” says Drogo Montague, MD, director of the Center for Sexual Function at The Cleveland Clinic.
To learn control, you must be aware of your sexual response and recognize when you’re approaching “the point of no return.” Before you get there, lessen the stimulation by slowing down or stopping. Once that feeling subsides, you resume until you reach the threshold again, then slow or stop, over and over. It takes practice — time spent experimenting with masturbation or frequent sex with a patient partner.
Anxiety is often part of the problem. You may have an underlying attitude that sex is shameful, and what’s more, your past experiences have made you feel inadequate. So you’re compelled to get the dirty deed done quickly, though at the same time you feel obliged to perform like a machine.
We tend to think of the male orgasm as mechanical, a simple matter of friction. “It’s an oversimplification,” says Richard Balon, MD, a psychiatrist at Wayne State University, in Detroit, Mich. Sex and psychology can’t be separated, even for men. If nothing else helps, therapy may.
Numb it. Until recently, a popular option besides therapy and the start-and-stop technique was to desensitize the penis with a topical anesthetic. “I don’t really encourage them to go the anesthetic route,” Montague says. It’s messy and inconvenient, and it may make you so numb you won’t feel anything.
Take a pill. Doctors now prescribe SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) such as Prozac to men with premature ejaculation. Delayed ejaculation is a well-documented side effect of SSRIs. The downside is that they can also dampen your libido.
Montague, who is working with a committee to draft guidelines on using SSRIs for premature ejaculation, says some men take the drugs continuously, while others are told to pop a pill when they anticipate sex. Either way, SSRIs help many men.
Let off steam. After a long period of abstinence, you may be so hot and bothered that it’s difficult to control your orgasm. Calm your libido with masturbation, and the thrill of a sexual encounter might not overwhelm you. Montague says it’s a good solution for some, but not all. “Men with severe premature ejaculation seem to have the problem regardless,” he says.
You would have to get the timing right for it to help. Men have what’s called a “refractory period” — a length of time after ejaculation during which they can’t have another orgasm. For some men, it’s very short; for others, it lasts hours.
Going, and Going, and Going …
Less common than premature ejaculation, but just as distressing, is the inability to have an orgasm — known as anorgasmia or delayed ejaculation, and also by the ugly medical terms “ejaculatory incompetence” and “retarded ejaculation.” If it’s a persistent problem, consider these possible causes and solutions.
Fatigue or stress. Men aren’t always up for sex. Consider the time of day. Maybe you’re having sex too late at night, when you can barely stay awake, or too early in the morning. Or perhaps worries invade your thoughts, to the effect of a cold shower. Find a way to relax first, rather than having sex to relax.
Something is missing. There may be a certain turn-on that’s absent from the sex you’re having. Maybe you think it’s kinky, and you’re too embarrassed to tell your partner, so you keep having “normal” sex. Maybe you’re not attracted to your partner, but you continue the sexual relationship for whatever reason. If you’re not getting what you need, couples therapy or therapy for you alone may help.
Prescription drugs. SSRIs, as mentioned before, can delay ejaculation. That’s good for men who ejaculate too soon, but if you’re taking an SSRI for something else, it can be a problem. Some antipsychotic drugs and blood-pressure medications may have this effect, too.
Alcohol. It depresses your central nervous system, which can suppress your orgasm. Heavy drinking can also impair your ability to get an erection.
Originally published Feb. 3, 2003.
Medically updated Feb. 28, 2005
SOURCES: Beverly Whipple, PhD, professor emerita, Rutgers University • Drogo Montague, MD, director, Center for Sexual Function, The Cleveland Clinic • Richard Balon, MD, professor of psychiatry, Wayne State University • Journal of the American Medical Association, Feb. 10, 1999 • European Federation of Neurological Societies Guidelines on Neurosexology • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, American Psychiatric Association • National Institutes of Health • The Kinsey Institute.
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Female Orgasm – Brain Activity Captured In FMRI Imaging Device
Brain activity during a female orgasm has been described as secondary to an epileptic seizure, after researchers from Rutgers University, New Jersey, USA recorded the upsurge of oxygen utilization in a 5-minute period of brain networking activity with a fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) scanner.
The researchers presented their findings at the Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting, 2011, Washington D.C.
The video footage shows how brain activity develops during the crescendo period, the orgasm itself, and the recovery period. It shows how unrelated brain regions come to life, reach a climax of activity, and then settling back down again.
Lead researcher, Professor Barry Komisaruk, said:
“We’re looking at the sequence of brain regions that get recruited at increasing intensity leading up to orgasm. It’s such a compelling behavioral and sensory phenomenon with so many implications and so little understanding.”
Nan Wise, 54, a sex therapist, who is a Rutgers PhD candidate, reached orgasm by self-stimulation. The researchers explained that every part of her brain was activated when she reached orgasm.
“When I first started grad school in ’80s, we didn’t have these methods. Now we can study how the brain is recruiting these regions to create the big bang of orgasm. Secondary to an epileptic seizure, there’s no bigger brain networking event. It’s a fantastic opportunity to examine the connectivity of the brain. Theoretically, it’s going be helpful to know how things work. I think the caveat is understanding that sexuality is very complex.”
In an interview with The Guardian newspaper, UK, Wise said, “It’s my dissertation. I’m committed to it.”
Prof. Komisaruk said they aim to find out what goes wrong in individuals of both sexes who fail to reach sexual orgasm.
The movie animation – consisting of a series of snapshots taken two seconds apart – shows how 80 different brain regions (40 on each laterality) respond. It uses colors to represent oxygen utilization levels in the brain, displayed on a spectrum from dark red, progressing to orange, yellow and finally white (highest level of activity). When orgasm is reached, nearly the entire brain becomes an illuminated yellow/white.
Early on in the movie, the genital area of the sensory cortex becomes active first – what the researchers say is a response to being touched in the genital area. Then the limbic system comes into action – this part of the brain is involved in long-term memory and emotions.
When the orgasm is about to arrive, the cerebellum and the frontal cortex become much more active – Komisaruk says this is due to muscle tension.
Activity reaches a peak in the hypothalamus during orgasm – oxytocin is released, a pleasure-inducing chemical that makes the uterus contract. The nucleus accumbens, a region in the brain linked to pleasure and reward, also becomes very active.
After the orgasm subsides, so does activity in all the stimulated brain regions.
Komisaruk has developed a technique whereby the individual being scanned can see his/her own brain activity on a monitor, providing neurofeedback. The team aims to help people learn how to alter their brain activity, and perhaps eventually improve their symptoms related to pain, depression and anxiety.
“We’re using orgasm as a way of producing pleasure. If we can learn how to activate the pleasure regions of the brain then that could have wider applications.”
Written by Christian Nordqvist
A lingering belief about women’s brains in the bedroom has been turned on its head by a new study. For some time, researchers have proposed that women literally stop thinking during climax and orgasm, but new research, published this month in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, suggests that women could still be capable of multitasking during the most heated moments of sex.
For some time, scientists and sexologists have concluded that during orgasm, women think about…nothing. The theory suggests in the few moments of climax, the brain is a clean slate, devoid of any thoughts about that endless to-do list, life and work responsibilities or even feelings for their partner. Researchers have said this phenomenon is simply the result of evolution: the opportunity to procreate trumps every other priority. But this new study provides solid evidence that the brain does not “switch off” during sex.
For the study, the researchers conducted brain scans on 10 women while they achieved orgasm on their own and also with a partner (meaning: masturbation in an MRI machine). They found that in the moments leading up to the Big O, brain activation actually increased and peaked at orgasm, then slowly decreased. Areas with the most activity included parts responsible for senses, motor skills, and even the emotional and rewards centers of the brain.
However, the new study did support prior research that found women experience less pain during orgasm. According to a report in the New Scientist, this study shows that at the moment of orgasm the dorsal raphe nucleus is more active. “This region plays a role in controlling the release of the brain chemical serotonin, which can act as an analgesic, dampening the sensation of pain,” according to the New Scientist.
Researchers said their brain scans also showed “a burst of activity” in the nucleus cuneiformis, an area of the brain that allows humans to control feelings of pain through thoughts. The reason for this is still not completely known, but it may have something to do with the brain’s inability to feel pleasure and pain simultaneously. So in that moment the mind chooses just one.
How do orgasms affect the brain? Study investigates
When it comes to the human orgasm, research has primarily focused on how this intense feeling of sexual pleasure has evolved. In a new study, one researcher has delved into a relatively understudied area of human climax: how orgasms affect the brain.
Share on PinterestA researcher reveals how orgasms affect the brain to trigger a “sexual trance.”
Described as a powerful, pleasurable release of accumulated sexual tension, the orgasm is perceived as the epitome of sexual pleasure for both men and women.
During orgasm, an individual may experience a rise in blood pressure, an increased heart rate, heavy breathing, and rhythmic muscular contractions.
But while the signs and sensations of an orgasm might be clear, the underlying mechanisms of this sexual response – particularly its neurophysiological effects – remain uncertain.
Study author Adam Safron, Ph.D., of the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL, notes that the majority of research relating to the orgasm has focused on its evolutionary functions.
A study reported by Medical News Today earlier this year did just that; researchers suggested that the female orgasm once played a role in ovulation.
For this latest study – recently reported in the journal Socioaffective Neuroscience and Psychology – Safron set out to gain a better understanding of how the human orgasm affects the brain.
How rhythmic stimulation can induce a ‘sexual trance’
To reach his findings, Safron analyzed an abundance of studies and literature that have investigated the brain and body’s response to sexual stimulation.
He used the information to create a model that sheds light on how rhythmic sexual activity affects rhythmic activity in the brain.
Safron explains that rhythmic sexual stimulation – if intense enough and if it lasts long enough – can boost neural oscillations at correlating frequencies, a process called “neural entrainment.”
This process may be responsible for what Safron describes as a “sexual trance,” where sole focus is on the immediate sensation experienced.
“The idea that sexual experiences can be like trance states is in some ways ancient. Turns out this idea is supported by modern understandings of neuroscience.
In theory, this could change the way people view their sexuality. Sex is a source of pleasurable sensations and emotional connection, but beyond that, it’s actually an altered state of consciousness.”
Adam Safron, Ph.D.
Brain responses to orgasms and rhythmic music, dance are comparable
Interestingly, Safron also identified similarities between orgasms and reflex seizures, noting that both of these experiences can be triggered by rhythmic stimulation that induces rhythmic activity in the brain.
Additionally, the researcher found that the way the brain reacts to rhythmic sexual stimulation is comparable to the way it responds to rhythmic music and dance.
” although obvious in retrospect, I wasn’t expecting to find that sexual activity was so similar to music and dance, not just in the nature of the experiences, but also in that evolutionarily, rhythm-keeping ability may serve as a test of fitness for potential mates,” says Safron.
He adds that rhythmic music and dance have served as a key part of mating for hundreds of millions of years, and his findings are consistent with this fact.
Safron says much more work needs to be done to fully understand the neurophysiological effects of orgasms, but he hopes his study paves the way for such research.
“Before this paper, we knew what lit up in the brain when people had orgasms, and we knew a lot about the hormonal and neurochemical factors in non-human animals, but we didn’t really know why sex and orgasm feel the way they do,” he says. “This paper provides a level of mechanistic detail that was previously lacking.”
Learn how gender and sexual orientation might influence orgasms.
What Goes On In A Woman’s Brain When She Has An Orgasm. It’s Complicated.
What is happening in a woman’s brain when she is having an orgasm? Is brain activity during an orgasm different from the period of intense sexual arousal that immediately precedes orgasm? Does it make a difference whether the woman masturbates or is stimulated by a partner? A study carried out by a team at Rutgers University Newark and published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine used fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) to provide answers to these and other questions about how sexual arousal and orgasm plays out in a woman’s brain.
How the study was carried out
The data that mapped brain activity to levels of sexual arousal culminating in orgasm were gathered in an environment that few would consider conducive to erotic activity. Functional magnetic imagining scanners are always noisy and usually cold. In addition, the women’s heads were held in a position that allowed very little movement when they were inside the scanner because motion disrupts the scan. The contraption that held the head in place included a throat collar and a full-head thermoplastic mesh mask with holes cut out for the eyes, nose and mouth that was molded to each woman’s head.
The women were asked to have two orgasms brought about by clitoral stimulation while their brains were being scanned. One orgasm was achieved through self-stimulation and the other through stimulation by a partner who accompanied the woman to the lab. In both cases, the women signaled the investigators when stimulation began, when orgasm began and ended, and when she felt she had physically recovered from her orgasm. Half of the women began with self-stimulation and the other half began with partner-stimulation. Only data from the first orgasm were analyzed for technical reasons.
Fourteen women volunteered for the study. Two were eliminated because they did not experience an orgasm and two others were eliminated because of technical problems with their fMRI scans. The 10 women who remained all described themselves as “highly” orgasmic. Their ages ranged from 29 to 74 years of age. Seven described themselves as exclusively heterosexual while the remaining three said they had “some” bisexual experience. Seven of the women were currently in a relationship, and four were married to the partners that participated with them in the study. Five of the women had had children and one described herself as “postmenopausal”.
What the study found
The time it took the women to reach orgasm after stimulation began ranged from 87 to 829 seconds (1.45 to 13.8 minutes). Their orgasms lasted from 10 to 59 seconds and their recovery periods lasted from 23 to 89 seconds.
Most of the results reported in the study identified specific structures in the brain where activity was greater during orgasm than during the phases of arousal (early, mid and late) that preceded orgasm, or where activation declined during the recovery period after orgasm.
Activation increased during arousal and peaked during orgasm for structures in the sensory, sensory integrative, limbic, motor, frontal cortical, and other neocortical regions of the brain along with several areas in the brainstem. For all of these areas, activation levels generally increased with some ups and downs during stimulation, peaked during orgasm, and declined afterwards.
The investigator’s goal was to provide empirical evidence about activity patterns in the brain rather than draw conclusions about the experience of orgasm based on the activation patterns they observed. Nevertheless, they did report some interesting findings related to the orgasmic experience.
One of their more interesting findings was that there was no significant difference in the brain activation that accompanied orgasm as a consequence of whether the woman masturbated or was brought to orgasm by her partner. The only differences the investigators found were that self-stimulation produced higher levels of activity during the mid-stimulation period, and stimulation by a partner produced higher levels of activity during late stimulation. These differences were so small that the self- and partner-stimulation data were combined for further analyses.
Most would agree that, aside from the physical changes involved, the mental and emotional experience of having an orgasm is very different from the experience of intense arousal that immediately precedes orgasm. In other words, orgasm involves more than the high point of arousal. Orgasm feels like something different is going on in the brain.
Perhaps surprisingly, the investigators did not find evidence for this. Brain activity was higher for many structures during the first 20 seconds of orgasm than during the 20-second period that preceded orgasm but the differences were not significant. In other words, orgasm looked like more of the same.
Differences in levels of brain activity are measured by subtracting the lower level of activity from the higher and then testing to see whether what remains is enough to qualify as a real difference. When the investigators tested the difference between the 20 seconds preceding and following the beginning of orgasm using the methodological standards that are generally accepted for this type of work, they found no significant differences. When they relaxed those standards, differences appeared.
The investigators suggest that no difference was found using the accepted standards because brain activation was so high during the 20 seconds preceding orgasm that it couldn’t get much higher after orgasm began. This is often referred to as a ceiling effect; activation is so close to ceiling before orgasm that reaching ceiling during orgasm isn’t enough of a difference to produce a statistically significant effect.
Relaxing the standard allowed smaller differences to reach significance. The investigators hypothesized that the differences that appeared using the relaxed standard may indicate the brain structures that are uniquely involved with orgasm. Interestingly, one of the structures that showed significantly higher levels of activation using the relaxed standard was the right angular gyrus which has been linked to the subjective feeling of having an out-of-body experience. If orgasm feels like it takes you to another place, this might be why.
The investigators also found increased activation during orgasm in several structures in the brainstem that have intriguing implications. The ventral tegmentum and substantia nigra have been associated with pleasure, reward and addiction. The connection between orgasm as a pleasurable and rewarding experience is obvious to anyone who has had one. The connection to structures in the brainstem that are associated with addiction may indicate that “sex addiction” is more than an excuse offered by people trying to avoid responsibility for their actions.
Finally, one of the investigators had co-authored an earlier study in which women reported substantial increases in their pain threshold during orgasm. The fMRI study found significant activation of two structures in the brainstem, the dorsal raphe nucleus and the nucleus cuneiformis, that play an important role in dampening the effects of pain.
The investigators point out that drawing far reaching conclusions from their study is unwarranted because of the small number of women involved. It may also be the case that women who volunteer for a study like this, and who are able to achieve orgasm in the circumstances needed to acquire high-quality fMRI data, are more sexually adventuresome, uninhibited, and confident in their sexuality than the population of women in general. If this is the case, their patterns of brain activity during sexual arousal and orgasm may be different as well.