For women, it seems, sex is a big turn-off, reveals a brain scanning study. It shows that many areas of the brain switch off during the female orgasm – including those involved with emotion.
“At the moment of orgasm, women do not have any emotional feelings,” says Gert Holstege of the University of Groningen in the Netherlands.
His team recruited 13 healthy heterosexual women and their partners. The women were asked to lie with their heads in a PET scanner while the team compared their brain activity in four states: simply resting, faking an orgasm, having their clitoris stimulated by their partner’s fingers, and clitoral stimulation to the point of orgasm.
The results of the study are striking. As the women were stimulated, activity rose in one sensory part of the brain, called the primary somatosensory cortex, but fell in the amygdala and hippocampus, areas involved in alertness and anxiety. During orgasm, activity fell in many more areas of the brain, including the prefrontal cortex, compared with the resting state, Holstege told a meeting of the European Society for Human Reproduction and Development in Copenhagen on Monday.
In one sense the findings appear to confirm what is already known, that women cannot enjoy sex unless they are relaxed and free from worries and distractions. “Fear and anxiety levels have to go down for orgasm. Everyone knows this but we can see it happening in the brain,” he explains.