physiology of watching porn

From April’s issue of Nature Neuroscience, a note entitled “Imaging gender differences in sexual arousal” by Turhan Canli and John Gabrieli:

Men tend to be more interested than women in visual sexually arousing stimuli. Now we learn that when they view identical stimuli, even when women report greater arousal, the amydala [sic] and hypothalamus are much more strongly activated in men.

That’s just the news summary though. The real paper is by Hamman et al. entitled “Men and women differ in amygdala response to visual sexual stimuli” in the same issue:

Men are generally more interested in and responsive to visual sexually arousing stimuli than are women. Here we used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to show that the amygdala and hypothalamus are more strongly activated in men than in women when viewing identical sexual stimuli. This was true even when women reported greater arousal. Sex differences were specific to the sexual nature of the stimuli, were restricted primarily to limbic regions, and were larger in the left amygdala than the right amygdala. Men and women showed similar activation patterns across multiple brain regions, including ventral striatal regions involved in reward. Our findings indicate that the amygdala mediates sex differences in responsiveness to appetitive and biologically salient stimuli; the human amygdala may also mediate the reportedly greater role of visual stimuli in male sexual behavior, paralleling prior animal findings.

Maybe we should make a movie called “chasing amygdala.”

2 thoughts on “physiology of watching porn

  1. The beauty of those studies is just how easy it is to design proper experiment protocols for them. And to round up undergraduate experimental subjects. Experiments that might actually advance our knowledge of the human brain are a tad more difficult.

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