Scientists are working on an electronic “sex chip” that will be able to stimulate pleasure centers in the brain.
The prospect of the chip, which could be a decade or more away, is emerging from progress in deep brain stimulation, in which tiny shocks from implanted electrodes are given to the brain. It has already been used to treat symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
In recent months scientists have been focusing on an area of the brain just behind the eyes known as the orbitofrontal cortex. This is associated with feelings of pleasure derived from eating and sex.
A research survey conducted by Morten Kringelbach, senior fellow at Oxford University’s department of psychiatry, and reported in the Nature Reviews Neuroscience journal, found that the orbitofrontal cortex could be a “new stimulation target” to help people suffering from anhedonia, an inability to experience pleasure from such activities. Stimulating this area can produce pleasure as intense as “devouring a delicious pastry”, he said.
His colleague Tipu Aziz, a professor of neurosurgery at the John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford, predicted a significant breakthrough in the science behind a “sex chip” within 10 years. “There is evidence that this chip will work,” Aziz said last week. “A few years ago a scientist implanted such a device into the brain of a woman with a low sex drive and turned her into a very sexually active woman. She didn’t like the sudden change, so the wiring in her head was removed.”
The wiring remains a hurdle: Aziz says current technology, which requires surgery to connect a wire from a heart pacemaker into the brain, causes bleeding in some patients and is “intrusive and crude”.
By 2015, he predicts, micro-computers in the brain with a range of applications could be self-powered and controlled by hand-held transmitters. “When the technology is improved, we can use deep brain stimulation in many new areas. It will be more subtle, with more control over the power so you may be able to turn the chip on and off when needed.
An electronic machine that generates sexual sensations is already under development by a North Carolina doctor, Stuart Meloy, who is modifying a spinal cord stimulator to produce pleasure in women. He calls it the Orgasmatron, a name taken from an orgasm-producing device in the 1973 Woody Allen film Sleeper. A similar device, the Excessive Machine, featured in Jane Fonda’s 1968 film, ‘Barbarella’.
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Via The Times