Barry Komisaruk studies the function of nerve pathways for sexual stimulation in women who have suffered spinal cord injury. He and fellow researchers at Rutgers published the first evidence of brain regions involved in orgasm in women. Also, he has co-published a comprehensive review of neurological, pharmacological, hormonal, and health aspects of orgasm in "The Science of Orgasm."
Question: How is the brain related to female sexual response?
Barry Komisaruk: Well, it’s interesting that you ask that question because we are really dealing with that right now. Since we know that if you think about the clitoris, or think about the G-spot, or think about the cervix that the corresponding part of the brain map for those parts of the body, those become activated. So, one question is whether women who can think themselves to orgasm, do they think their genital activation that the brain representation of the genitalia into activity and does that spread to the other systems that are involved in orgasm, how do they do it? We want to understand how they do it normally and then the question is what if we ask women to think about the genitals more intensively? Or, will they be able to intensify the response in their genital sensory cortex, and will that spread to other parts of the brain, will that facilitate their orgasm? I think it could be very useful in women who say that they don’t experience orgasms; it could be useful in women with spinal cord injury who can’t feel their external genitals. Can they think their brain into greater activation and will that facilitate their orgasm?
That’s a question that we are currently dealing with our brain research. It’s a very important and interesting question and it could be therapeutically useful. One of the techniques that we’ve developed is to have the women in the scanner looking at their own brain activity in near real time. The question is, if we can see our own brain activity in near real time in specific regions, can we voluntarily increase the activity of that part of the brain just by thinking about it, just as we can think about moving our finger and we can move our finger? We can wiggle our finger. We don’t know what we do, we learned to do it as an infant because we got the feedback between what we see and what we do, maybe we can do something with the brain. If we see our own brain activity, maybe we can make a change and maybe that’s going to change the way we feel, or the way we move. So, this is a new technology of near real time brain imaging with unlimited frontiers. We don’t really know how far we can go with that. But it’s a new approach.
Recorded on October 29, 2009