The Unexpected Differences In How Men & Women's Brains Respond To Being Sexually Turned On

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Do Men And Women's Brains Work Differently When They Are Sexually Aroused?

We may literally see things differently.

A recent study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine asserts new findings that women everywhere believe we have known for years. In short, women use more of their brains than men do when it comes to having sex.

Researchers at McGill University in Montreal began by using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to scan and capture images of the brains of 40 heterosexual men and women (20 men, aged 18 to 31, and 20 women, aged 19 to 30) as they watched films of people engaging in sex.

In summary, they now believe that when experiencing a state of arousal, women's brains display higher levels of activity in various regions than do men's brains while in comparable states of arousal.


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The scientists behind the study believe this particular variation may be linked to differences in the neurological arousal processes of men and of women.

Not only did volunteers watch pornographic content, but were also shown clips from ABC sitcom Modern Family.

The sitcom segments were meant to serve as a control mechanism, as well as to help distinguish between the brain's reaction to humorous as opposed to erotic arousal.

In addition to the use of fMRI technology, study participants were filmed via thermal imaging cameras placed near their genitals "so that experimenters could observe any visible signs of increased sexual stimulation."

And as a third measurement, participants were asked to continuously evaluate their own perceived changes in arousal by answering "discrete questions about liking the movies and wanting sexual stimulation."


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After reviewing the combined data, the research team described their surprising results in detail.

"Genital arousal in women was more strongly linked with changes in brain activity, across numerous regions, than men... The finding was unexpected because most previous research has suggested that the correlations between genital response and subjective arousal are stronger for men. There were no brain regions in men with stronger brain-genital correlations than in women."

They went on to postulate that women's sexual arousal may be more strongly influenced by visual features of erotic stimuli (i.e., what they are seeing/watching) than by their peripheral physiological responses (i.e., physical sensations they experience down below). In fact, the findings among participants in this particular study, lead the researchers to speculate that "visual features of erotic stimuli could play a stronger role in female sexual arousal responses compared with male responses."

So much for men being more visually-oriented in regard to sex and attraction than women.


The study's abstract reveals that reliable conclusions based on this research cannot yet be made.

"Our findings shed light on the neurophysiologic processes involved in genital arousal for men and women," they state."Further research examining the specific brain regions that mediate our findings is necessary to pave the way for clinical application."


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Rebecca Jane Stokes is a sex, humor and lifestyle writer living in Brooklyn, New York with her cat, Batman. She hosts the sex, love, and dating advice show, Becca After Dark on YourTango's Facebook Page every Tuesday and Thursday at 10:15 pm Eastern. For more of her work, check out her Tumblr.