Researchers have found spinal-cord neurons that control ejaculation, providing new directions for research into ejaculation problems and possibly drugs that cause orgasmic feelings.

“It’s wild speculation,” says Lique Coolen, assistant professor of cell biology, neurobiology, and anatomy at the University of Cincinnati. “But if we were to find the chemicals that contribute to the sensation of ejaculation and the pleasure associated with it, we may be able to find drugs that have the same effect.”

In the most recent issue of the journal Science, Coolen and colleagues report that they located the ejaculation-control neurons by injecting male rats with a toxin that destroyed a cluster of cells called lumbar spinothalamic cells.

The LSt cells were identified in tests looking for cells activitated during ejaculation but not other aspects of sexual behaviour.

Rats without the LSt cells had normal sexual behaviour and function up to the point of ejaculation — they got interested and aroused, but could never climax.

The cells themselves appear to take sensory input from the penis and respond with a muscle response that causes ejaculation.

Researchers believe the cells may also carry sensory information back to the brain after ejaculation. If they could mimic this transmission, they could duplicate the feeling of orgasm.

And this may not only apply to men. “These cells also exist in female rats, so we want to find out what their function is in females,” says Coolen.