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Our lusty behaviour: Science tries to explain sex and love Add to ...

One study found that activation in male and female brains during climax is fairly uniform, aside from some mechanics. Same for passionate love, which triggers the same parts of the brain across the board, for straight and gay men and women alike.

For me it proves that love is love no matter who happens to be in love.

Tell me about your own orgasm tracked via fMRI.

I had no idea how much of my brain would be activated: It was lit up like a Christmas tree. Orgasm gives your brain one hell of a workout and it’s probably very good for you, up there with diet and exercise, to keep up optimal brain health. Many studies have shown aging people who have better cognitive abilities are all still having sex.

You describe the brain as a giant gonad and point out you don’t even need genital stimulation: Wet dreams are a case in point, as are people with spinal-cord injuries who can climax. Which brings us to “thinking off.”

Thinking off is the ability to think yourself into an orgasm. Instead of using your hands to touch yourself or having a partner do it, you can arouse yourself enough by fantasy and top down control of the brain to achieve actual physical orgasm. We don’t know how prevalent it is but it may be possible that we’re all capable of it, but just never figured out how.

Tell me about your friend, “Trixie.”

She has a very respectable corporate job and told me she did it all the time, during conference calls at work to pass the time. She was very kind and allowed me to observe despite a lot of embarrassment I think on both of our parts. It’s a good enough orgasm that she does it quite often. What researchers have seen when they’ve put people who can think off into fMRIs is that the brain looks pretty much the same as when people are “touching off.”

Let’s turn to sex addiction, under consideration for the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders next year as “hypersexuality.” Brain chemistry-wise, who is most at risk for this malady?

Lique Coolen [a neuroscientist at the University of Michigan]looked at animal models and found damage in the prefrontal cortex resulted in rats compulsively seeking sex. Male rats that have this damage can’t help themselves. With one gene variant, DRD4, it seems there is more novelty seeking, but that doesn’t mean it has to express itself with hypersexuality. The person can be an adrenalin sports junkie or get thrills from winning eBay auctions.

Some think it’s all about self-discipline but it’s becoming clear there is more to the story. Kristie, a woman I spoke with, identified as both a love and a sex addict. There’s an intrigue and she can’t get enough of it. Wolfram Schultz, a neuroscientist at the University of Cambridge who studies reward and risk processing, said our brain system’s set up so that anything can become addictive.

Why does “love addiction” come with some partners and not others?

Why do some people affect us and make us absolutely nuts so that our family and friends are all saying, “Get yourself woman, you are nuts!” and then other people are as comfortable as a nice warm bath but they’re not making you break ties with your family or risk losing your job because you’re coming in late every morning. It has a lot to do with chemicals. Our bodies give off a lot of information that other people can unconsciously process. Maybe that person is an ideal genetic mate for offspring. That would certainly satisfy evolutionary scientists.

On the other end we have successful long-term couples: Those still passionately in love after decades showed activated dopamine-rich reward areas in their brains, scientists have found.

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