Saturday, November 19, 2011

Female orgasm movie shows how the brain fires up

The mysterious origin of the female orgasm hasn't yet been solved, but now the world's first movie of the brain during sexual climax maps activity before, during and after the event. Created by animators from theVisualMD, it's based on brain scans captured by Barry Komisaruk of Rutgers University, New Jersey, and his team as a woman stimulated herself inside an fMRI machine.

The animation uses a colour scale that varies from red to white, where yellow and white are linked to highest levels of activity. The first sequence uses snapshots of 20 moments during the 7-minute scan.
Initially, genital touching fires up a region of the sensory cortex but signals quickly spread to the limbic system, an area linked to emotion, behaviour and long-term memory. Then the cerebellum and frontal cortex light up as muscles become tense before climax. During orgasm, almost the whole brain becomes highly active, as demonstrated by the bright yellow colours. This stage is highlighted in the second part of the animation. Activity then returns to lower levels.

Komisaruk hopes that this map of the brain will help explain conditions where women have difficulty achieving orgasm, by showing where the process breaks down. He's also developing a technique where people can watch their brain activity while inside an fMRI scanner, allowing them to learn how to change brain patterns. This could help treat a range of conditions such as pain, anxiety and depression.
Previously, Komisaruk has compared brain activity during stimulation of the vagina, clitoris and cervix.
The animation was presented this week at the Society for Neuroscience annual meeting in Washington DC.
If you enjoyed this clip, check out the first video of a couple having sex in an MRI scanner.

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