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Find out why pain tolerance increases during female orgasm

Unraveling the mysteries after the female orgasm.


Why are women able to tolerate more pain during the previous time and during orgasm? A team of scientists at the University Of Rutgers (USA) has found an answer to this question, showing that the female brain does not ‘shut down’ just before or during orgasm. The research has been published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine.

Previously much research has been done on the physical factor of male and female orgasm, but little is known – or much less – about what happens in the brain during sexual climax or orgasm, especially if we refer to women. One reason there are so few studies on the subject is because most involve asking the volunteers to put aside their inhibitions while masturbating within a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machine. Logically, the cold, noisy and mechanical cabin for this task is not exactly propitious to achieve the excitement of the participant.

However, this group of scientists tried to salvage this obstacle once more (it is likely that many have come to mind the series ‘Masters of Sex’ on the history of gynecologist William Masters and sexologist Virginia Johnson), with the participation of 10 women of different ages, who were asked to be stimulated as the researchers observed the functioning of their brains from a control room. Women were asked to try to reach orgasm twice if they were able. Each and every one of the experiments was repeated for the second time with male partners providing stimulation. Women volunteers were also equipped with a special device to prevent their heads from moving, preventing the readings of their brains from blurring.

Thus, despite the clinical environment, most of the volunteers could achieve at least one orgasm, which allowed observing clearly what happened in the participants’ brains. The scientists discovered that, on the precipice of orgasm, the dorsal nucleus of the raphe (located in the midline of the brainstem) became more active.

An area of the brain becomes much more active

Previous research has shown that the dorsal nucleus of raphe plays an important role in controlling the release of serotonin, which in addition to making us feel good, also serves as analgesic; this explains why women report feeling less sensitive to pain just before and during orgasm.

But experts also found something else: instead of turning off, most regions of the brain became much more active during stimulation and orgasm. This finding contradicts that of a team of scientists who in 1985 performed similar experiments using a PET scanner and in whose study they reported finding evidence that several regions of the brain fell asleep during orgasm, which led them to claim that women required of an environment without  distractions to have an orgasm. Now, using magnetic resonance imaging, we have discovered that this is not just not so, but the opposite is true. The brain activity gradually increases until reaching orgasm, reaching its maximum in orgasm and then decreases.

According to the authors, the brain areas activated in orgasm included sensory, motor, reward regions, frontal cortices and brainstem (such as the nucleus accumbens, insula, anterior cingulate cortex, cerebellum or hippocampus).

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