Turning it On!: Your Brain’s Pleasure Center

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Your Sexy Brain: Triggers & Responses

The next time you have sex, pay attention to changes that take place and see if you can recognize these five distinct phases.

Phase 1 – Foreplay

The minute a man sees a sexy image or feels an intimate touch, his amygdala, which regulates his emotions, releases feel-good pleasure endorphins in his brain and triggers testosterone. These send messages to his body that he is getting turned on and make him feel sexually virile. His heart rate quickens and blood begins to move to the genitals.

“Sex is an affirmation of life. By making sex a prominent part of it—placing it on the top of our list of priorities—it helps us face daily challenges in other parts of our lives.” – Dr. Stanley Siegel

Most women need to be prepared for sex with some foreplay ranging between ten and forty-five minutes. Whispering her name in her ear and then kissing her triggers the release of dopamine from the nucleus accumbens that will flood her brain with feel-good
chemicals. Caressing her face, neck, shoulders, arms and other areas will increase her blood flow to her genitals and her entire body will become more sensitive. Her estrogen mixed with his testosterone increases their sexual desire.

Phase 2 – Excitement

Heavy-duty petting can take foreplay to a whole new level, especially when you know how it affects your mind and body. I like to call it “Love Play” as it is playful and can be a prelude to making love. It can consist of kissing, caressing, hugging and humping or stroking, all physical and psychological acts that lead to more sexual excitement.

Whether male sexual excitement is created by physical or mental stimulation, the result is the same. His blood flow is increased to his genitals and the penis begins to harden. Adrenaline actives the sympathetic nervous system, which increases his heart, pulse and
respiration rate too. The ventral tegmental area (VTA) actually releases the dopamine, making him feel like a king.

Female sexual excitement affects the entire body with the increase of her heart, pulse and respiration rate. During this cycle, her breasts swell and her nipples become erect. Also, her vagina becomes wet. Like a man’s penis, a woman’s clitoris also becomes erect, up to three times its normal size. Her brain areas associated with the chemicals dopamine and norepinephrine production light up as they make her feel intense pleasure and excitement.

Phase 3 – Plateau

Oral sex is one of the most highly erotic, loving, and satisfying sexual activities you can indulge in that can lead to the Plateau phase, if you are not yet ready for sexual intercourse. Like any other sexual act, it all starts between the ears, so if oral pleasure is what you want be sure to communicate that to your partner because they cannot read
your mind.

The head of his penis becomes engorged with blood and swells. For the uncircumcised man, the penis head pushes out of the hole in the foreskin. At the urethral opening, some men will secrete pre- ejaculatory fluid, more commonly known as “pre-come.” This fluid contains semen, so wear a condom to practice all the necessary safer-sex precautions to protect yourself and your partner from STDs and pregnancy. The chemical vasopressin, a male counterpart to oxytocin is released to increase bonding with his partner.

Her body temperature rises and changes, which may explain why the face and chest get red when having sex. This is often referred to as a “sex flush” and with the increased blood flow to the genitals the color of her inner vaginal lips become a deep red. Her clitoris retracts under the clitoral hood. Her uterus is pulling upward into the abdomen widening the vaginal space allowing the penis to fit comfortably. The pituitary gland releases beta-endorphins, which studies show can decrease physical pain, including headaches.

Phase 4 – Orgasm

Many women say their best orgasms happen while receiving oral sex or when they use their fingers or a vibrator on the clitoris during penetration. The secret to simultaneous orgasms is to sync up your mind and body with your partner before having intercourse.

Remember that an orgasm starts in the brain, so paying close attention to your partner’s erotic cues will help you both reach a highly aroused state at the same time and maybe even have simultaneous orgasms.

At the orgasmic point, male blood pressure is rising and muscle tension is building to a peak as he’s about to reach his orgasm. The testicles rise up close to his penis while his prostate gland is filled with fluid. The cerebellum controls muscle function as they contract
involuntarily. When his pelvic muscular contractions begin, there’s no going back, and the sperm shoots out of the urethral opening of his penis. His body movements during orgasm are totally unconscious according to brain scans.

In the female orgasm cycle, the uterus, anus, leg muscles, face and hands begin to involuntarily contract. Dr. Masters and Virginia Johnson referred to these muscle spasms as “myotonia” activated by the vaginal muscles. There are strong contractions in the vagina at 0.8 second intervals, the lungs are working at forty breaths per minute and heart beat can go as high as 180 beats per minute. While in the brain, a releasing agent called phenylethylamine (PEA), which is famous for being found in chocolate, makes her feel both physically and emotionally satisfied.

A woman’s brain shows less activity in the amygdala and hippocampus, which deal with fear and anxiety, so that she can relax and enjoy her orgasm. Her orgasm generally lasts
longer than his by at least 10 seconds and scientific imaging reveals that female orgasm fires in 80 regions of the brain!

During intercourse, increased amounts of adrenaline are released from the adrenal glands. This chemical amplifies the circulatory system with each heart contraction.

Phase 5 – Resolution

After orgasm, the body goes back to its normal pre-arousal state; muscles relax, the penis becomes soft and the testicles descend back down to their usual place. Heartbeat and breathing slows down and lots of men feel so relaxed that they just want to go to sleep.

After orgasm, men release a cocktail of chemicals including prolactin, a hormone that is linked to feelings of sexual satisfaction, hence the smile on his face. He also releases a burst of oxytocin causing him to feel sleepy.

Cooling down for women is defined by how long it takes to get her pulse rate back down to normal and for the rush of blood from her pelvis to subside. Blood pressure and pulse gradually return to pre-arousal levels. Swelling in the genitals and other areas decreases. The labia minora return to their normal color. The clitoris re-emerges from under the clitoral hood and returns to its normal size within about ten minutes. Muscles relax and organs and tissues resume their original positions.

It’s important for a woman to cuddle after sex as it releases oxytocin and makes her feel more intimate towards her partner. For men, the benefit of cuddling can lead to increased sexual satisfaction, so fall asleep if you must as long as it’s with your arms wrapped around each other.

Oh My, The Big O

For something so juicy, the formal definition of “orgasm” is quite dry. Webster’s Dictionary defines orgasm as “Intense or paroxysmal excitement; especially: an explosive discharge of neuromuscular tensions at the height of sexual arousal that is usually accompanied by the ejaculation of semen in the male and by vaginal contractions in the female.” This basically means a sudden burst of energy, which allows your body to release tension. At the point of orgasm, or climax, a euphoric energy is released throughout the body and causes a strong tightening of most muscles in the body, which basically means … yes, please.

Orgasm Does All This!

♥ Orgasm enables us to surrender complete control.
♥ Orgasm is the best form of escape from reality.
♥ Orgasm is the most natural high.
♥ Orgasm is wired to our brain, not between our legs.
♥ Orgasm gives us indisputable confidence.
♥ Orgasm teaches us to accept who we are.
♥ Orgasm satisfies us physically.
♥ Orgasm satisfies us emotionally.
♥ Orgasm can be a spiritual experience.
♥ Orgasm can be addictive.
♥ Orgasm should not be hurried or pushed by anyone.
♥ Orgasm can unite two partners into one.

In both sexes, an area in the frontal lobes of the brain, called the lateral orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), shuts down during orgasm. This region is used for decision-making, obviously not a primary function when reaching an orgasm.

The Brain Produces All Kinds of Pleasure!

The brain’s pleasure center, made up of the amygdala, nucleus accumbens, ventral tegmental area, cerebellum and pituitary gland, is ignited during sexual activity. Also known as the reward circuit, this part of the brain processes all kinds of pleasures, including sex, laughter, and certain kinds of drug use. When this section of the
brain was scanned during sexual activity, scientists at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands discovered that there was little difference in the brain patterns of men and women during orgasm.

They also discovered something else: an orgasm makes you lose control. Researcher Janniko R. Georgiadis states, “It’s the seat of reason and behavioral control. But when you have an orgasm, you lose control” and Dr. Gert Holstege has been quoted as saying that
there is little difference between a brain during orgasm and a brain on heroin. “95% is the same.”

Sex is our second basic instinct after self-preservation because it leads to the continuation of our species. Not that you need any convincing that orgasms feel good, but did you know that they are also healthy? Several studies have hypothesized that hormones released during arousal and orgasm, specifically oxytocin and DHEA, an endogenous hormone that serves as precursor to male and female sex hormones, may also have protective effects against cancer and heart disease.


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