Men and women experience sexual pleasure in strikingly different ways, the first brain scans thaken during orgasm show.
While male brains focus heavily on the physical stimulation involved in sexual contact, this is just one part of a much more complex picture for women, schientist in the the Netherlands have found.
The key to female arousal seems rather to be deep relaxation and a lack of anxiety: direct sensory input from the genitals plays a less critical role. The scans show that, during sexual activity, the parts of the female brain responsible for processing fear, anxiety and emotion start to relax. This reaches a peak at orgasm, when the female emotion centres are closed down to an almost trance-like state.
Scientistsfound the male brain harder to study during orgasm because of its shorter duration in men than in women. The scans nevertheless revealed important differences. Men's emotion centres are also deactivated, though apparently less intensely than in women, and men also appear to concentrate more on the sensations transmitted from the genitals. This suggests that, for men, the physical aspects of sex play a more significant part in arousal than they do for women, for whom mood and relaxation are at least as important.
One suprising discovery is that both sexes found it easier to have an orgasm when they kept their socks on. Draughts in the scanning room left couples complaining of literally cold feet, and providing a pair of socks allowed 80%, rather than 50%, to reach a climax while being scanned.