Jun. 20, 2005 11:38 AM
COPENHAGEN, Denmark - New research indicates that parts of the brain that govern fear and anxiety are switched off when a woman is having an orgasm.
In the first study to map brain function during orgasm, scientists from the Netherlands also found that as a woman climaxes, an area of the brain that governs emotional control is also heavily deactivated.
"The fact that there is no deactivation in faked orgasms means a basic part of a real orgasm is letting go. Women can imitate orgasm quite well, as we know, but there is nothing really happening in the brain," said neuroscientist Gert Holstege, presenting his findings Monday at the annual meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology.
In the study, Holstege and his colleagues at Groningen University recruited 11 men and 13 women, together with their respective partners.
The volunteers laid on a scanning machine bed and were injected with a dye that shows changes in brain function on a scan. For the men, the brain scanner tracked activity during rest, during erection, during manual stimulation by their partner and then during ejaculation, brought on by the partner's hand.
For the women, the scanner measured brain activity during rest, while they faked an orgasm, during manual stimulation by their partner, and while they experienced genuine orgasm.
Holstege said he had trouble getting reliable results from the study on men because the scanning machine needs activities lasting at least two minutes to record an activity. But the men's climaxes didn't last anywhere near that lone, meaning he could not reliably compare the scans before climax and during.
However, for women, the results were clear, he said.
When women faked orgasm, the cortex, the part of the brain governing conscious action, lit up. It was not activated during genuine orgasm.
The most striking results, however, were seen in the parts of the brain that shut down, or deactivated.
"During orgasm, there was strong, enormous deactivation in the brain. During fake orgasm, there was no deactivation of the brain at all. None," Holstege said. "It looks like to have an orgasm, you need to not be fearful or full of anxiety."