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Boffing boffins create 3D map of orgasmic female brain

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A team at Rutgers University claims that women use up to 80 different points in their brain when orgasming, a discovery achieved by mapping the moment in 3D using a MRI scanner.

The team, which presented their research at the recent Society for Neuroscience conference in Washington DC, persuaded female volunteers to achieve orgasm while in the confines of an MRI scanner. The scans were then melded into a single video showing the storm of activity caused by what the French call la petite mort.

Cortical activity starts, obviously enough, in the part of the brain which responds to genital or nippular stimulation, before moving on to the insula, which deals with pain. Team leader professor Barry Komisaruk suggested that this may account for the look of pain on some women’s O faces. He also noted that females are much more resistant to pain during climax.

Synapses then start firing in the anterior cingulate before moving on to the amygdala – both of these sections of the noggin are thought to handle emotional responses. Next it moves to the hippocampus, which then fires up a large section of the brain in response.

"The hippocampus is often involved in epileptic seizure activity," Komisaruk told TIME. "There's a lot of similarity between seizures and orgasms in the sense that they involve many brain regions concurrently."

Controversially – at least among the world’s small group of sexual researchers – the team then monitored activity in the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for planning and abstract thought. Previous similar research on women found little evidence of brain activity here during orgasm, but the team saw strong results.

This may have something to do with the testing methodology. Previous research had a partner providing the orgasm, whereas in this study the sisters were doin' it for themselves, either manually or by using a Lucite rod - metallic vibrators could prove lethal in an MRI scanner.

"It could be different [because] women inducing orgasm in themselves may involve executive control characteristics of the prefrontal cortex, whereas in partner-induced stimulation, women may surrender to their partner and that could be the basis for the reduction in activity," Komisaruk explained.

Finally, there was a burst of activity in the brain to stimulate muscle activity, before the hypothalamus is activated, releasing cysteine-tyrosine-isoleucine-glutamine-asparagine-cysteine-proline-leucine-glycine-amine, otherwise known as oxytocin, which has been linked to emotional bonding. Finally, at the peak of orgasm, the brain’s pleasure center takes over and floods the noggin with dopamine, leading to an overall drop in brain activity.

The full study has not yet been peer-reviewed or published, but the team hope to do so as soon as possible. ®

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