Nipples stimulate the same area of the brain as genitals do

August 5, 2011 by Deborah Braconnier weblog

A new study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine reveals medical evidence that women’s nipples stimulate the brain in the same way that genital stimulation does, something most women already know.

A team of researchers at Rutgers University led by psychologist Barry Komisaruk, recruited 11 healthy women between the ages of 23 and 56. The women were placed in an fMRI scanner and asked to stimulate their cervix, nipple, clitoris and vagina with either a rhythmic finger tap or plastic dildo.

The images of the women revealed increased activity in the medial paracentral lobule for each area of stimulation, however each stimulated area was responsible for lighting up a specific region.

There are four nerves that bring signals to the brain from the genital region. The pudendal nerve is connected to the clitoris, the pelvic nerve to the vagina, the hypogastric nerve to the cervix and uterus and the vagus nerve which also connects the cervix.

Nipple stimulation during breast-feeding is known to cause the release of oxytocin which triggers uterine contractions and Komisaruk believes this then sends a signal to the genital area of the brain. However, the few men who have been studied under the same controls show similar activity to nipple stimulation. One of the study researchers is now also looking at women who have had a hysterectomy to see if the response is the same.

Komisaruk hopes that this new research will lead to information to help people who are unable to reach orgasm but is also looking at ways to use this pleasurable stimulation to directly control brain activity. According to Komisaruk, learning to better understand and control the part of the brain that produces pleasurable sensations could make a difference in the treatment of depression, anxiety, addiction or even obesity.

Explore further: Walking, sex and spicy food are favored unprescribed methods to bring on labor

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Anti-tumor antibodies could counter atherosclerosis, study finds

July 20, 2016

Investigators at the Stanford University School of Medicine have learned the signal that tumor cells display on their surfaces to protect themselves from being devoured by the immune system also plays a role in enabling atherosclerosis, ...

A more powerful way to develop therapeutics?

July 21, 2016

A University of Toronto scientist has developed a new method for identifying the raw ingredients necessary to build 'biologics', a powerful class of medications that has revolutionized treatment of diseases like rheumatoid ...

Technique uses 3-D weaving to grow a living hip replacement

July 18, 2016

With a goal of treating worn, arthritic hips without extensive surgery to replace them, scientists have programmed stem cells to grow new cartilage on a 3-D template shaped like the ball of a hip joint. What's more, using ...

11 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Isaacsname
not rated yet Aug 05, 2011
What an eye-catching title. On the serious side of things, this could be an explanation as to why some women feel uncomfortable breastfeeding. I could see that for a nursing mother that could be awkward.
emsquared
5 / 5 (5) Aug 05, 2011
Is it possible that this is observed because it's contextualized as sexual before-hand? Which is to say, would the same area of the brain light up if you hand someone kiss their neck or stimulate any given erogenous zone? In women at least I suspect it would, it's the brain that's the primary sexual organ.

What about if the stimulation is in a non-sexual context, like a gynecological visit and speculum instead of a dildo? I'm thinking you're gonna get a different response, again the brain is the sexual organ.
RobertKarlStonjek
5 / 5 (1) Aug 05, 2011
This is just the kind of thing that all budding lab assistants dream of just before they get to examine the contents of the lower bowel of rabid dogs....dreams and reality: they can't all fit into the same box...
Dug
not rated yet Aug 05, 2011
You left out the G-spot which has more sensitivity than the four you mentioned, produces faster arousal and climax than the clitoris.
hush1
1 / 5 (1) Aug 05, 2011
Em's point is in my view a good point. The list of cognitive bias are a nightmare to isolate. Even the physical settings offer sources of cognitive bias, without even considering the relational implications of dialogues between subjects and researchers.
Setting the 'mindset' is the weaker generalization or expression of the cognitive biases.

The media will eventually exploit this:
Orgasms at will - can too many lead to addiction?
Sex industry losses in the billions.
PPihkala
1 / 5 (1) Aug 06, 2011
Maybe they have to repeat this study while the subjects are under anesthesia. That could help them eliminate indirect arousal. But this setup would probably give problems in finding test subjects, because someone else would be doing the tapping and subjects would not be able to supervise what is being done.
Physmet
1 / 5 (1) Aug 06, 2011
My tenth thought (let's be honest, it wasn't my first!) was that they should have had them also touching other areas as well: stomach/abdomen, leg, arm, eyelid. There should also have a been a control group where all they did was touch the innocuous places and the nipple. This would show whether there is a contextual response to the touching.
Isaacsname
not rated yet Aug 06, 2011
My tenth thought (let's be honest, it wasn't my first!) was that they should have had them also touching other areas as well: stomach/abdomen, leg, arm, eyelid. There should also have a been a control group where all they did was touch the innocuous places and the nipple. This would show whether there is a contextual response to the touching.


I will volunteer myself. In the name of science of course.
WriterSP
not rated yet Aug 06, 2011
Just as an aside...I kind of gathered this insight from personal experience a long time ago. In foreplay moments, I always noticed that my partner would exhibit feelings of stimulation in her genital region from nipple stimulation (as exhibited by her squeezing her thighs and heaving her hips up and down). Is this really something no one noticed before? C'mon.
Isaacsname
not rated yet Aug 06, 2011
Just as an aside...I kind of gathered this insight from personal experience a long time ago. In foreplay moments, I always noticed that my partner would exhibit feelings of stimulation in her genital region from nipple stimulation (as exhibited by her squeezing her thighs and heaving her hips up and down). Is this really something no one noticed before? C'mon.


I always just looked at nipples like they were tuning/volume knobs.
antonima
not rated yet Aug 06, 2011
My tenth thought (let's be honest, it wasn't my first!) was that they should have had them also touching other areas as well: stomach/abdomen, leg, arm, eyelid. There should also have a been a control group where all they did was touch the innocuous places and the nipple. This would show whether there is a contextual response to the touching.


I agree. They should repeat the study with a world-class masseuse as well.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.