It appears as if the old adage might be correct – the best way to turn on a woman might be through her mind. Canadian scientists from McGill University have discovered that intellectual stimulation is more linked to women’s sexual arousal than men’s.
Published last week in The Journal of Sexual Medicine, the study involved two groups (20 men and 20 women) who were shown movie clips (some humorous, some erotic) while their genital temperature was continually measured using infrared thermal imaging. Thermography allows for a direct comparison of the neural correlates of genital arousal in men and women.
Participants also continuously evaluated how aroused they felt, and answered questions about liking the movies and wanting sexual stimulation. The participants’ brain activity was indicated by blood oxygen level-dependent (BOLD) and was measured using functional magnetic resonance imaging.
According to Springer:
“Blood-oxygen-level-dependent signal is the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) contrast of blood deoxyhemoglobin. Neurons do not store internal reserves of glucose and oxygen, which are essential to their proper function. Increases in neuronal activity, typically in response to a demand for information processing, require more glucose and oxygen to be rapidly delivered via the bloodstream. Via this hemodynamic response, blood releases glucose and oxygen to active neurons at a faster rate relative to inactive neurons. This results in a surplus of oxyhemoglobin localized to the active area, giving rise to a measurable change in the local ration of oxy- to deoxyhemoglobin, thus providing a localizable marker of activity for MRI.”
Researchers found a much stronger correlation between brain and genital ‘activity’ for the women; comparing the results between male and female participants showed a stronger correlation between brain and genital activity in a number of areas of the brain for women. These areas included the left and right cerebellum; subcallosal cortex; posterior cingulate cortex; and lateral occipital cortex. There were no brain regions in men with a stronger brain-genital correlation than in women.
However one must keep in mind that this study has the common limitations of most laboratory-based sexual arousal research, including sampling bias, lack of ecologic validity, and equipment limitations, and those common to neuroimaging research, including BOLD signal interpretation and neuroimaging analysis issues.
Still, it’s pretty interesting, wouldn’t you say?