Exquisite orgasms

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How, for example, can they explain the fact that some men and women who are paralyzed and numb below the waist are able to have orgasms? And how on Earth to explain the case of the amputee who felt his orgasms centered in that missing foot? No one -- no exquisite orgasms, no neuroscientist -- really knows. For a subject with so many armchair experts, the human orgasm is remarkably mysterious.

Exquisite orgasms an orgasm orchestra, the genitalia may be the instruments, but the central nervous system is the conductor. Armed with new lab tools and fearless volunteers, scientists are getting first-ever glimpses of how the brain lights up and, in places, shuts down when the orgasmic fireworks go off. Heiman, director of the Kinsey Institute, a nonprofit organization at Indiana University. Sex is an important part of human relationships, she says, which in turn can affect psychological health.

Indeed, if surveys are to be believed, this most delightful of experiences is elusive for many. Orgasm researchers hope their efforts will help some of these people -- eventually. It has never been easy to study any aspect of sexuality, let alone one so erotically center-stage as an orgasm.

Gert Holstege, a neurologist at University of Groningen in the Netherlands.

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For example, Viagra originally was a drug being tested for treatment of high blood pressure and heart disease. Other touted aids lack formal proof. Orgasms are difficult to define, let alone reverse-engineer. A few blueprints, however, have already been sketched out. First, stimulating the genitals sends electrical impulses along three main paths -- the pelvic, hypogastric and pudendal nerves. Next, these titillating als enter the spinal cord at the base of the spine and zip up to brain regions that respond to genital sensations.

Then other parts of the brain leap into action. Some send als back down to the body with certain instructions -- lubricate the vagina, stiffen the penis, pump blood harder, breathe faster. The intensity builds to a crescendo, and just like a long-awaited sneeze, tension is released in an explosive rush. The heart rate doubles. In women, the uterus contracts rhythmically; in men, sperm-carrying semen is propelled out of the body.

And somehow, by mechanisms not yet understood, the brain perceives all this activity as a darn good feeling. Such a aling pathway would seem to rule out orgasms for anyone whose spinal cord is completely severed, because people with such injuries cannot feel the brush of a finger across the penis or clitoris. But about two decades ago, anecdotal evidence started accumulating to the contrary.

This was as a bit of a surprise to the medical profession, which for decades had told patients with damaged spinal cords to give up hope of a sex life. Researchers began to investigate. One, Dr. The findings show that the normal genitals-to-spine-to-brain route for an orgasm is not the only one. The best explanation may be that a touch unperceived by the brain can still be doing exquisite orgasms work, says Alexander, a rehabilitation medicine professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Exquisite orgasms. Alexander thinks that an exquisite orgasms, like urination, is a reflex.

Both functions can be controlled partly by willpower. Some studies, mostly in animals, support this line of thought. In the brain stem and spinal cord, researchers have found hard-wired programs -- clusters of cells acting as primitive mini-brains of sorts -- that produce rhythmic movement without any higher brain input. These so-called central pattern generators are what let mollusks swim, rats crawl, tadpoles breathe and perhaps human males thrust their pelvises and ejaculate.

Rat studies suggest that females, too, have these muscle-contracting proto-brains. But orgasms are more than just muscular contractions. They feel good. So how do the brains of spinal-cord-injured people sense the pleasure? The proposed detour makes use of a vast highway of nerves called the vagus nerve network. Like the vagabonds for which they were named, vagus nerves wander throughout the body.

They start at the base of the brain, slide down the neck but not the spinal cord and stretch to all the major exquisite orgasms, and at least in female rats to the uterus and cervix. If vagus nerves reach human pelvises, genital als could hopscotch over the spinal cord and still reach the brain. Animal experiments support the idea. Female rats with intact vagus nerves but snipped genital nerves cutting off their als to the spinal cord still respond to vaginal stimulation in their normal, albeit rodent-like, fashion: enlarged pupils, rapt attention and a tendency to ignore painful stimuli applied to their paws.

But when the vagus nerves in the pelvises are also severed, all these sexual responses stop. To investigate further, in a study, Komisaruk and Whipple worked with four women with shattered spinal cords. Each stimulated her cervix with a phallus while the researchers used fMRI scanning to measure brain activity. Despite exquisite orgasms severed spinal cords, all women reported feeling the touch of the stimulator, Whipple says.

The sensation at the cervix was reaching the brain. And three of the volunteers experienced an orgasm. Komisaruk and Whipple have compared these brain images with those of women who are able to have orgasms by thought alone who thus provide a clean brain image of a person reaching climax. They found that orgasms elicit strong activity in the nucleus accumbens, the reward center, which also lights up in response to nicotine, chocolate, cocaine and music; in the cerebellum, which helps coordinate muscle tension; and parts of the hypothalamus, which releases oxytocin, the trust and social-bonding hormone.

Intriguingly, areas of the cortex that respond to pain also responded during orgasm. This helps explain a medical mystery: When epileptic seizures start in these areas, the electrical frenzy can triggers euphoric feelings called orgasmic auras. Most patients find the experience displeasing. In the late s, his team recruited volunteers plus their sexual partners, who would stimulate them in the lab. To measure brain activity, the researchers used PET scanners, which require obsessive attention to timing.

The stimulators were asked to induce an orgasm in their receivers within a two-minute window, with an eight-minute advance warning. Couples were told to practice at home first. from men and women were fairly similar, says Janniko R. Georgiadis, a neuroscientist at the University of Groningen and a study coauthor.

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There were several regions of activation, but the most striking result, Georgiadis says, was how certain regions in the front of the brain shut down during orgasm, especially one just behind the left eyeball. Researchers have long noticed that damage to this area -- the lateral orbitofrontal cortex -- can leave people with wildly antisocial and impulsive tendencies, including hypersexuality. But when you have an orgasm, you lose control.

Regions called the temporal lobes also showed damped activity. In fact, the less activity these regions showed, the more sexually aroused the women felt.

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These deactivations might explain the appeal of autoerotic asphyxiation, the researchers say. Exquisite orgasms a brain of blood during sex not only provides a dangerous thrill but also shuts down key brain regions, leading to addictive orgasmic euphorias. Back in New Jersey, Komisaruk is trying to apply some of this new brain exquisite orgasms. He is studying two extremes: women who complain of constant sexual arousal and find no relief in orgasms and those who can never have an orgasm.

The setup is simple: Women lying in an MRI scanner watch a computer display of their brain activity. Scans of women with persistent genital arousal disorder reveal unusually high activation in regions that respond to genital stimulation. Their brain thinks the genitals are constantly being stimulated. Komisaruk is coaching them to use neuro-feedback -- mental strategies such as counting or imagery -- to alter their brain activity.

If they see those genital brain regions cooling seconds after their mental exercises, they can refine their techniques and eventually do it without the scanner, whenever these brain areas again slip into hyperdrive. Fire rather than ice might be the trick for anorgasmic women, whom Komisaruk plans to study next. The brain is surprisingly plastic, Komisaruk says. Ramachandran -- of the man who had orgasms in his phantom foot.

They died, leaving prime cerebral real estate vacant. That region? One that processes input from penis and vulva. Nothing quite so drastic is expected to occur with a bit of orgasmic neural training in the lab, Komisaruk says. But the anecdote points out that the brain is indeed capable of some very imaginative tricks.

All Sections. About Us. B2B Publishing. Business Visionaries. Hot Property. Times Events. Times Store. Facebook Twitter Show more sharing options Share Close extra sharing options. Science of the orgasm During orgasm, parts of the brain show heightened activity as other regions shut down. By Regina Nuzzo.

Exquisite orgasms

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