You Have to Use Your Brain To Have an Orgasm

MRI studies that can reveal which areas of the brain are firing during a particular activity have shown that there is a whole flurry of activity in the cortical, subcortical, and brainstem regions and this activity will peak levels at orgasm

Sex, and how to make it better, is still a mystery, even to sexologist scientists. The science of sex is still evolving, and there’s no research more fascinating about our body than the facts about orgasm.. We feel an orgasm in our vaginas or our penises, some feel it in the rectum, the nipples, the lower abdomen, the gluteal muscles; but did you know that the brain has an orgasm too?

The areas of our brain that fire are not limited to sensory areas, but the reward areas, the muscular control areas, the thinking areas and the most basic brain stem areas.

The brain has actual chemical pathways it follows to achieve an orgasm. Or the paths that are followed result in an orgasm. Science is still working this all out, but one thing we know, if these pathways are disrupted you will not be able to have an orgasm.

Orgasms, as opposed to sexual arousal which is it’s own set of firework brain signals, we know for a fact, cause a release of the brain’s signaling molecules including opioids, serotonin, prolactin and oxytocin.

In fact the serotonin release in the brain as a result of orgasm is the turn off signal. It is also backed by research that the seratonin release then immediately reduces the dopamine presence in the brain.

Dopamine is released during arousal and then a boost with orgasm. So the dopamine that was perceived by the brain to be a turn on, eventually will decreases at brain sites, and this leads to a resolution of the chemical response to orgasm .

What still needs to be worked out not just what chemicals are released, in what sequence, but exactly what changes from one partner or one episode of sex to another. In what amounts determines our unique ability to have a brain orgasm, will also determine whether it was perceived as good or an ok sex episode. But we have not yet worked out perhaps why sex with one partner is different than another partner.

How those brain chemicals work to make us want more sex, longer sex, different sex, or self sex hasn’t been worked out completely either. And whether these chemicals behave differently depending on our hormone balance, that’s probably true but we don’t know exactly how.

Research has shown if someone is very aroused, then there’s a lot of dopamine in the brain, and at the start of sex just a little serotonin release (the first orgasm) may just not be enough to make us want to quit.

On the other hand people who maintain high levels of arousal: the 24/7 dopamine releasing individuals, perhaps they become a bit desensitized to the minor elevations in dopamine levels that just a bit of “same old routine” sex presents. Perhaps explaining why some need more intense experiences to then get aroused. As we try to find chemical stimulants for desire and arousal one of the puzzle mysteries is how to weave a chemical feeling into a human response that can only be appropriate in some contexts. And perhaps giving someone an elevated level of chemicals, but not a varied level of these chemicals is going about the fix-it routine a bit longer.

The hormones of the menstrual cycle, the time of the day, the type of menopausal hormones you take, whether you are treated with bioidentical hormones, can all affect both whether you have an orgasm and they type of chemical orgasm occurring in your brain when you have one.

If you have questions about orgasms, or any other questions about healthy sex, come in for a gyno appointment at Women’s Health Practice, the leading center in Illinois for sexual health medicine.


Suzanne Trupin, MD, Board Certified Obstetrician and Gynecologist and owner of Women's Health Practice, Hada Cosmetic Medicine, and Hatha Yoga and Fitness

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