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ScienceIAMA neuroscientist researcher, here to answer your questions about What Happens in Our Brains During Sex and Orgasm, AMA!

Feb 9th 2017 by tmkl2678 • 7 Questions • 1047 Points

My short bio: Hi! I’m Tara Keck. I’m a neuroscience researcher on the faculty at University College London and I study how the brain changes when we learn new things. My PhD research focused on changes to the memory and learning areas of the brain, and I then worked in Germany researching how we learn through our senses. Now I run a lab at UCL in London.

To get ready for Valentine’s Day, I’m answering questions about what happens in our brains during Sex and Orgasm, so AMA. I’ll be here from 12pm EST for about an hour to answer your questions and if you check in too late, you can post your question to my Facebook page, where I’ll be answering additional questions between now and Tuesday. fb.me/FemaleBrainSex

My Proof: http://imgur.com/a/3K886

Q:

So, uh... what does happen?

A:

the short answer is that physical stimulation is only a small part of sex and orgasm. During your everyday life, there is a balance between the brain areas that make you feel turned on (desire...) and those keep you from just having sex all the time (planning areas).

During actual orgasm, far more brain regions are turned off than turned on. so having a good time during sex is all about getting all the parts of your brain that suppress your sexual urges to turn off. That's a much bigger factor for most people than the physical stimulation.


Q:

thanks i get it but my girlfriend is pretty chill. are there other suppressors?

A:

certainly, common suppressors include being worried about body image (very common), performance anxiety (either being 'bad in bed' or ironically being stressed about not being able to orgasm), worried about getting pregnant - really anything that gets her worried about the future or makes her feel self-conscious. Yeah, I realize that could be almost anything, but exploring these ideas in a conversation with her could help identify some potential suppressors.


Q:

why do your physical abilities and breath change while having an orgasm?

like, I've never tried to, but if you had the time could you do the "walk on a straight line" drunk test while having an orgasm?

or doing any physical thing that requires some "serious" motor coordination while having an orgasm

A:

the part of your brain that coordinates your movements with your senses (vision, touch, hearing) is really active during an orgasm, so I would guess most people would fail to pass a "walk a straight line" test during or even shortly after orgasm. and certainly serious motor coordination is not going to happen.


Q:

If orgasm feels so good why do some people want to have sex so infrequently?

A:

we all have different sexual responses because our brains are all wired differently. So some people's brains jump to think about sex spontaneously, and others jump to think about sex only in response to a strong sexual stimulus. There's nothing right or wrong about either way, but it's good to know where your brain falls on the scale so that if you and your partner have different responses to sex, you can find a way to meet in the middle. Emily Nagoski writes nicely about this in her blog here: http://www.thedirtynormal.com/blog/2014/06/16/i-drew-this-graph-about-sexual-desire-and-i-think-it-might-change-your-life/

Another take on this is that our sexual suppressor brain regions play a big role in wanting to have sex, since those areas of our brain dampen our sexual desires. Stress is a huge suppressor for most people and many people are stressed all the time. Not surprisingly, they are a lot less interested in sex.


Q:

From a neurological POV, does watching porn regularly adversely impact your sex life?

A:

this is a great question. From a scientific point of view, it's hard to say for sure because it is really hard to do a controlled study. But certainly our early sexual experiences strongly shape our brain wiring related to sex (since our brains are really flexible when we are younger and a bit less flexible when we are older). Nowadays, many people's early sexual exposure involves porn. So particularly with younger people, watching porn will shape their brains and the specific things that make them feel turned on and turned off. How adverse that effect is depends on the person and most likely the porn.


Q:

Hello, thanks for the AMA. I have always wondered about 1 specific thing since I saw something a few years ago.. Can actual brain damage or damage or harm of any sort occur from prolonged intense orgasms?

I ask as there is a fetish model and performer by the name of Rain Degrey who has a gift/curse of being able to orgasm ridiculously intensely and for a looooong time. As well as that she seems to reach orgasm very quickly and easily. There are numerous videos she has done over the years showing how intense and crazy it is. First time I saw it I was intrigued and genuinely wondered if it could in fact be physically dangerous.

I know women orgasm more intensely than men, but this woman is on a whole other level. I'm not trying to be pervy or weird or anything like that, but here is a link (NSFW) to an example of what I mean.

video

All of the stuff she does is very professional, consensual and above board, and there is also a lot of aftercare involved afterwards, and she seems to love what she does. each to their own I guess.

However- is this kind of intensity and prolonged duration of orgasm in fact dangerous? Could she be risking doing herself physical harm to her brain or anything else? Thank you for any info in advance.

A:

in theory, too much release of brain chemicals can become toxic at some point, but our brains have a lot of mechanisms in place to protect themselves. Currently, there isn't any scientific evidence that orgasm is bad for you (even extended orgasm), so I wouldn't worry about it too much.


Q:

Had their ever been an instance that you know of, where an individual experienced an orgasm so intense that they died as a result? If not it's it possible?

A:

death by orgasm would be scientifically difficult to prove, so I guess the verdict is out?