Stimulation of female genital regions produces strong activation of various brain sites

September 12, 2011

A new study published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine reveals that for the first time, stimulation of the vagina, cervix, or clitoris was shown to activate three separate and distinct sites in the sensory cortex.

Some sexuality experts have claimed that the major source of genital sensation is from the clitoris, with relatively little sensation produced by vaginal or cervical stimulation.

Researchers led by Barry R. Komisaruk, B.S., Ph.D., of Rutgers University, used (fMRI) to map sensory cortical responses to clitoral, vaginal, cervical, and nipple self-stimulation in 11 healthy women, ages 23-56. For points of reference on the homunculus (also referred to as the "point-to-point body map" or a diagram showing where nerves from different parts of the body are represented in the brain) researchers also mapped responses to stimulation of the thumb and great toe.

Results found that stimulation of each of these genital regions in fact produces a significant and strong activation of specific and different sites in the sensory cortex.

The three representations are clustered in the same sensory cortical region as the genitals of men on the homunculus.

Nipple self-stimulation activated not only the chest region of the homunculus as expected, but also surprisingly the genital region of the sensory homunculus, suggesting a for women's reports that nipple stimulation feels erotic.

"Our findings demonstrate undeniably that there is a major input to the sensory cortex in response to stimulation of not only the clitoris, but of the vagina and cervix as well, which also evidently receive a significant and substantial sensory nerve supply," Komisaruk concludes. "This lays the groundwork for an understanding of how genital stimulation spreads sequentially through the brain from initial activation of the to eventually activate the that produce orgasm."

Irwin Goldstein, editor-in-chief of The Journal of Sexual Medicine, further explained the enormous significance of this ground breaking sexual medicine research. "In the 1930's-1950's, researchers localized in the brain exactly where all sensations in man were represented, including male genitalia. Data regarding location of clitoral sensation were only studied in 2010, some sixty years later. This current study in The Journal of reveals, for the first time, brain sensation localization data not only from the clitoris, but from the vagina, cervix and nipples. Being able to demonstrate the multiple locations in the brain where stimulation of different female genital regions are represented and how these locations inter-relate helps us to better understand women's sexual function."

Explore further: Nipples stimulate the same area of the brain as genitals do

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Placebo sweet spot for pain relief found in brain

October 27, 2016

Scientists have identified for the first time the region in the brain responsible for the "placebo effect" in pain relief, when a fake treatment actually results in substantial reduction of pain, according to new research ...

Team announces mapping of the mouse cortex in 3-D

October 27, 2016

The Allen Institute for Brain Science has completed the three-dimensional mapping of the mouse cortex as part of the Allen Mouse Common Coordinate Framework (CCF): a standardized spatial coordinate system for comparing many ...

Neuro chip records brain cell activity

October 26, 2016

Brain functions are controlled by millions of brain cells. However, in order to understand how the brain controls functions, such as simple reflexes or learning and memory, we must be able to record the activity of large ...

Can a brain-computer interface convert your thoughts to text?

October 25, 2016

Ever wonder what it would be like if a device could decode your thoughts into actual speech or written words? While this might enhance the capabilities of already existing speech interfaces with devices, it could be a potential ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Sep 12, 2011
Are we talking about stimulating her brain or mine?
1 / 5 (1) Sep 12, 2011
Was wondering if they could use an uh...laboratory assistant...for this research.

The fact that the women were self-stimulating could be skewing the results and should be controlled for.
1 / 5 (1) Sep 13, 2011
Sheesh. What an awesome research topic. Wouldnt be surprised if they extended this to lab stimulation by test controller, followed shortly by stimulation by general objects found in lab pants.
not rated yet Sep 14, 2011
Does 'sensory cortex' refer to the entorhinal cortex?
1 / 5 (1) Sep 18, 2011
The cervix too?

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.