Functional MRI of the Brain During Orgasm In Women

Department of Psychology, Rutgers,The State University of New Jersey, Newark 07102, USA.
Annual review of sex research 02/2005; 16:62-86.
Source: PubMed


Women diagnosed with complete spinal cord injury (SCI) at T10 or higher report sensations generated by vaginal-cervical mechanical self-stimulation (CSS). In this paper we review brain responses to sexual arousal and orgasm in such women, and further hypothesize that the afferent pathway for this unexpected perception is provided by the Vagus nerves, which bypass the spinal cord. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), we ascertained that the region of the medulla oblongata to which the Vagus nerves project (the Nucleus of the Solitary Tract or NTS) is activated by CSS. We also used an objective measure, CSS-induced analgesia response to experimentally induced finger pain, to ascertain the functionality of this pathway. During CSS, several women experienced orgasms. Brain regions activated during orgasm included the hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus, amygdala, accumbens-bed nucleus of the stria terminalis-preoptic area, hippocampus, basal ganglia (especially putamen), cerebellum, and anterior cingulate, insular, parietal and frontal cortices, and lower brainstem (central gray, mesencephalic reticular formation, and NTS). We conclude that the Vagus nerves provide a spinal cord-bypass pathway for vaginal-cervical sensibility and that activation of this pathway can produce analgesia and orgasm.

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    • "Whipple and colleagues studied 10 women who were orgasmic with sexual fantasy only (Whipple, Ogden, & Komisaruk, 1992). Changes related to orgasm can be found in the neo-cortex, the limbic system and the cerebellum (Komisaruk & Whipple, 2005). Georgiadis et al. (2006) saw a prominent orgasm-related deactivation in the orbitofrontal cortex and the anterior temporal lobes, suggesting that some behavioural disinhibition (letting go of control) is mandatory for orgasm to occur. "
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    ABSTRACT: A consistent finding in the literature has been that only about half of the women experiencing orgasm difficulties also report associated distress. This may suggest that orgasms are less important for women's sexual satisfaction than they are for men. Evidence is provided to suggest that orgasms are important for women's sexual satisfaction. The lack of distress seems related to women's lesser consistency of orgasm during partnered sexual activity and not to orgasms being less important per se. In contrast to current suggestions that inability to orgasm during vaginal intercourse points to psychological immaturity, data are presented that imply that women's orgasm consistency in all forms of partnered sexual activity is associated with sexual autonomy (i.e., the extent to which one feels that one's sexual behaviours are self-determined). This paper ends with a brief overview of organic and psychosexual factors associated with problems with sexual excitation and sexual inhibition and reviews evidence-based treatment of anorgasmia. For orgasm problems that are related to problems with sexual excitation, effective treatments are available. We recommend that more effort is given to studying factors associated with sexual inhibition.
    Sexual and Relationship Therapy 11/2011; 26(4-4):329-341. DOI:10.1080/14681994.2011.649691 · 0.51 Impact Factor
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    • "Studies on brain imaging that have investigated brain activity during orgasm ( Ko - misaruk et al . , 2002 ; Komisaruk & Whipple , 2005 ) have suggested that the most important activation sites for orgasm may be the paraventricular nucleus , the central gray area of the midbrain , the cerebellum , and the hippocampus ( Heiman , 2007 ) . "
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    ABSTRACT: This article reviews the DSM diagnostic criteria for Female Orgasmic Disorder (FOD). Following an overview of the concept of female orgasm, research on the prevalence and associated features of FOD is briefly reviewed. Specific aspects of the DSM-IV-TR criteria for FOD are critically reviewed and key issues that should be considered for DSM-V are discussed. The DSM-IV-TR text on FOD focused on the physiological changes that may (or may not) accompany orgasm in women; one of the major recommendations here is that greater emphasis be given to the subjective aspects of the experience of orgasm. Additional specific recommendations are made for revision of diagnostic criteria, including the use of minimum severity and duration criteria, and better acknowledgment of the crucial role of relationship factors in FOD.
    Archives of Sexual Behavior 09/2009; 39(2):256-70. DOI:10.1007/s10508-009-9542-2 · 3.53 Impact Factor
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    • "Perhaps thalamus activity, in unison with empathy circuits, allows parents to appreciate the discomfort of their baby indicated by a cry. The caudate may be associated with the integration of sensory input, reward expectation and detection (Delgado, 2007; Knutson & Cooper, 2005; Martin-Soelch et al., 2001) to motivate and prepare for rewarding experiences including receiving money (Peterson, 2005; Schultz, 2000), using addictive substances such as cocaine (Breiter & Rosen, 1999), sexual arousal (Karama et al., 2002) and orgasm (Komisaruk & Whipple, 2005). Future studies with parents may clarify if baby-stimuli may be similarly rewarding to parents. "
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    ABSTRACT: A range of early circumstances surrounding the birth of a child affects peripartum hormones, parental behavior and infant wellbeing. One of these factors, which may lead to postpartum depression, is the mode of delivery: vaginal delivery (VD) or cesarean section delivery (CSD). To test the hypothesis that CSD mothers would be less responsive to own baby-cry stimuli than VD mothers in the immediate postpartum period, we conducted functional magnetic resonance imaging, 2-4 weeks after delivery, of the brains of six mothers who delivered vaginally and six who had an elective CSD. VD mothers' brains were significantly more responsive than CSD mothers' brains to their own baby-cry in the superior and middle temporal gyri, superior frontal gyrus, medial fusiform gyrus, superior parietal lobe, as well as regions of the caudate, thalamus, hypothalamus, amygdala and pons. Also, within preferentially active regions of VD brains, there were correlations across all 12 mothers with out-of-magnet variables. These include correlations between own baby-cry responses in the left and right lenticular nuclei and parental preoccupations (r = .64, p < .05 and .67, p < .05 respectively), as well as in the superior frontal cortex and Beck depression inventory (r = .78, p < .01). First this suggests that VD mothers are more sensitive to own baby-cry than CSD mothers in the early postpartum in sensory processing, empathy, arousal, motivation, reward and habit-regulation circuits. Second, independent of mode of delivery, parental worries and mood are related to specific brain activations in response to own baby-cry.
    Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 10/2008; 49(10):1042-52. DOI:10.1111/j.1469-7610.2008.01963.x · 6.46 Impact Factor
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