PET reveals orgasmic metabolism

September 1, 2005

Dutch researchers may have done more to recruit radiologists than any public relations campaign ever could. They've used PET imaging to probe the brains of men and women before and during sexual orgasm.

Dutch researchers may have done more to recruit radiologists than any public relations campaign ever could. They've used PET imaging to probe the brains of men and women before and during sexual orgasm.

One finding showed that parts of women's brains, including those that govern emotional control, essentially shut down during orgasm. The same areas imaged during a faked orgasm were rife with FDG.

Areas of women's brains that control fear and anxiety, such as the amygdala, begin to deactivate during sexual activity, closing down at orgasm. In addition, women don't seem to rely as much as men on direct sensory input from the genitals. In men, the secondary somatosensory cortex, which rates the significance of physical sensations, showed greater FDG activity than in women.

Reliable data on men, however, were sparse because their orgasm needed to last a few minutes to compare scans before and during climax.

Dr. Gert Holstege, from the University of Groningen, reported the study at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology meeting in July.