What Happens to Your Body And Brain When You Orgasm
In order to figure out what's going on our brains when we climax, researchers use fMRI (Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) Machines or a PET (Positron Emission Tomography) scans. These devices can measure the blood flow and neuron activity in the brain.
By studying the brain activity of people having orgasms in these machines, scientists have learned some pretty amazing stuff. We consulted to expert findings to find out exactly what happens in your brain when you have an orgasm.
1. The logical part of your brain basically shuts down during sex.
"The lateral orbitofrontal cortex becomes less active during sex. This is the part of the brain that is responsible for reason, decision making, and value judgments. The deactivation of this part of the brain is also associated with decreases in fear and anxiety," This shutdown of the lateral orbitofrontal cortex actually makes sense, as fear and anxiety can interrupt arousal and lead to problems like performance anxiety.
2. Multiple spatially remote parts of your brain are involved in having an orgasm.
"Researchers have found that genital sensory cortex, motor areas, hypothalamus, thalamus, and substantia nigra all light up during the big O," cognitive psychologist.
The thalamus helps integrate information about touch, movement, and any sexual memories or fantasies that someone might call upon to help them reach orgasm. Meanwhile, the hypothalamus is busy producing oxytocin and may help coordinate arousal.
"Motor areas are also involved because the body is (hopefully) moving during the act, and the genital sensory cortex is registering touches to the body's nether regions.
3. When you orgasm, your brain releases a surge of dopamine.
Dopamine is formed in a part of the brain called the ventral tegmental area and released into other parts such as the nucleus accumbens and prefrontal cortex.
"Some refer to dopamine as a 'pleasure' chemical – though research has shown it offers us much more than just a good time. It's really more of a learning chemical, helping to take notice of rewards like food and sex, and figure out how to get more of them.
4. Oxytocin is released during both orgasm and breastfeeding.
Oxytocin is known as the bonding hormone because it's also released during breastfeeding and is known to facilitate a sense of love and attachment.
Prolactin is also released during orgasm and is responsible for that feeling of satisfaction that accompanies orgasm. It's also the main hormone responsible for milk production following pregnancy.
Of course, the release of oxytocin and prolactin during both sex and breastfeeding doesn't mean a person experiences the same sensations in both situations.
These hormones can play different roles in our bodies and are part of the brain's way of strengthening our social connections.
5. Having an orgasm stimulates your brain in the same way as doing drugs or listening to your favourite music.
Sex is experienced as pleasurable and this is because the reward pathways in our brains are activated during and leading up to orgasm. These are the very same networks that are activated in response to drug use, alcohol consumption, gambling, listening to your favourite song or enjoying a delicious meal.
6. Your brain gives off chemicals that make you less sensitive to pain during sex.
As the pituitary gland is activated, the release of endorphins, oxytocin, and vasopressin promote pain reduction, intimacy, and bonding.
7. Orgasm and pain actually activate some of the same brain areas.
Several of the areas of the brain (namely, within the cortex) that are responsible for pain are active during orgasm.
Although the relationship between pain and orgasm isn't yet fully understood, some research has shown that vaginal stimulation might actually reduce pain sensitivity in some people.
Once an orgasm has occurred, your brain tends to slow down. But it doesn't go off-duty entirely.
In both men and women, the orgasm signals the parasympathetic nervous system to start down-regulating (or calming) the body. The prefrontal cortex, which was previously activated leading up to orgasm, also becomes down-regulated – and this is linked to increased levels of oxytocin to facilitate attachment.
The brain also churns out serotonin after an orgasm. This hormone is known to promote good mood and relaxation. In some people, serotonin can also lead to drowsiness and the desire to curl up for a nap.
9. However, the brains of women tend to keep releasing oxytocin even after orgasm.
In women, oxytocin tends to continue to be released after orgasm, which may explain the motivation for post-coital cuddles.
10. In people who are unable to feel genital stimulation, the brain might actually remap itself to allow them to reach orgasm.
When organs are injured or removed, remapping of the senses may occur allowing us to experience sexual and orgasmic sensations in other body parts.
In people who have suffered lower body paralysis, for example, the brain might actually rewire itself in order to allow a person to achieve orgasm through stimulation of other body parts, such as the skin of the arm or the nipples.
It's possible for some people to orgasm from the touching of skin. (Pixabay)
Though scientists aren't entirely sure why we have orgasms.
12. Having an orgasm might actually help keep your brain healthy.
It may also be that, evolutionarily speaking, since this activity increases blood flow across the brain so dramatically, it may have developed in part to help keep the brain healthy.
Research has also suggested that female orgasm may have once played a role in stimulating ovulation, though now ovulation occurs spontaneously and doesn't depend on sexual activity.
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