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MRI Maps Out What Women Want in Bed

Scientists discover what physical stimulation does to women's brains.

Sex wisdom has always said that men are more susceptible to physical and visual stimulus, but women need more mental stimulus to get their engine going. When it comes to stimulating the clitoris, a focused mind (and hand) is needed. Now, a new study has used MRIs to show that different parts of the female anatomy stimulate different parts of a woman's brain. In the body, neurons gather information and feed it to an area of the brain called the sensory cortex. Scientists had previously mapped which regions of the cortex correspond with the different parts of the body, such as the hands and feet, or face and chest. All of this work had been done in men. But in a recent study, scientists hoped to fill in the gaps for specific female body parts. They used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to see which parts of the sensory cortex were activated when women stimulated their erogenous zones—the vagina, clitoris and nipples. The vagina and clitoris were associated with distinct areas in the cortex. This shows that while the clitoris may receive some indirect benefit through vaginal stimulation, it has its own sensory nerves separate from those of the vagina. Stimulation of the nipples lit up two areas of the sensory cortex: the chest and the genitals. This may explain why some women find nipple stimulation erotic. These findings may prove useful in treating women with nerve damage caused by childbirth or disease—not to mention helping men understand why pleasing a woman seems so much more complex. The researchers would also like to do additional studies to see whether other parts of the female brain are activated during self-stimulation. Who knows, maybe this enhances memory.

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