Women’s brains are actually more active than men’s during periods of sexual arousal. Does this mean that women think about sex more?
How does sexual arousal affect the brains of women?
Do women get more out of sexual stimulation than men? According to their brain activity, it seems that the answer is yes. It’s already well-known that men and women think of sex differently, but there’s not a lot of objective, quantifiable evidence for this assertion. However, researchers have endeavored to find just that.
There's something going on in women's brains (isn't there always?).
In a new study, researchers sought to find a connection between genital arousal and brain activity. They recruited 40 participants consisting of 20 men and 20 women, all of whom were asked to have their genital temperatures measured by heat-sensing cameras as they watched an erotic video clip as well as a humorous video clip from the television show Modern Family. Their brain activity was also measured using an MRI machine while they watched the clips. Participants were then asked to press a button to indicate either an increase or a decrease in sexual arousal.
Researchers aimed to measure the blood oxygen level dependent (BOLD) response as an indication of sexual arousal. This is a brain imaging technique that shows blood oxygen levels that correspond to different neural activity levels. The use of this technique in the study showed that the BOLD activity in different brain regions had a correlation with changes in genital temperatures in both the men and women.
However, BOLD activity indicated a more extensive level of brain activity in the female participants as compared to that of the males. This was true in all of the relevant brain regions; no brain region in the men showed itself to be more active than brain regions in the women during sexual arousal. Thus, the overall results showed that there was a stronger brain-genital connection in women than in men.
What's the difference between men and women when it comes to sexual arousal?
Of course, this study can only measure the physical manifestations of arousal in the blood and brain. However, there’s really no telling what was going on in the brains of the participants, so researchers can only make their best guesses as to why there’s a discrepancy like this between men and women. “Perhaps women’s rating of their sexual arousal responses might be more influenced by the visual features of erotic stimuli than their peripheral physiologic responses,” the researchers write.
Thus, the fact that women’s brains are more active during sexual arousal doesn’t necessarily mean that they think about sex more. Instead, the findings possibly indicate that there may be “processes that are more strongly related to genital arousal in women compared to men,” says Mayte Parada, one of the researchers. However, there’s still a need for more research to be able to tell for sure.
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