Monday, 26 August 2013

Your Brain on an Orgasm

How your body reacts to the Big O

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."

The Buildup

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.

Almost There

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.

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