A Woman’s Orgasm Mapped Using fMRI

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One woman's orgasm is mapped out on an fMRI to help us understand how the brain functions during orgasm.

fMRI Orgasm

Photo: Kristen Mark

Female orgasm, mapped on an fMRI

Have you ever wondered what is happening in the female brain during orgasm? Of course you have…

Well, no need to wait any longer. Researchers at Rutgers University have mapped it out in video format for our viewing pleasure (pun intended). Dr. Barry Komisaruk, a psychology professor at Rutgers, and easily dubbed a “king” of female orgasm research, has published on anything from the neurological to hormonal aspects of orgasm. In the research that led to this video, he and his colleagues recorded female orgasm using an fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) while the woman stimulated herself to orgasm.

The Video

The video, less than a minute in length, is based on a 7-minute sexual experience (masturbation) that has been transposed into 20 different snapshots in time ranging from approaching, reaching, and resolving from, orgasm. You can check out the video clip here.

Decoding the Colors

As you can see in the video, there are a range of colors shown. Here is a decoder:

  • Dark red: indicates lowest activity
  • Yellow/white: indicates highest activity

This is measured through oxygen utilization levels. You’ll see around the 15-second mark in the video that the whole brain illuminates yellow. This is an indication that almost all brain systems are active during female orgasm.

Needless to say, this is pretty impressive stuff. There is still a lot to learn regarding female sexuality, especially orgasm, and hopefully advances in technology (like this one) will continue to help researchers uncover more and more about female sexuality. The more we know about how women function in terms of pleasure, the more likely we are to find solutions for women who are not functioning the way they want to in terms of pleasure.

Kristen Mark, PhD, MPH

completed her PhD in Health Behavior and her MPH in Biostatistics, both at Indiana University. Kristen is an Assistant Professor in Health Promotion at University of Kentucky. Kristen's research focuses on sexual pleasure, sexuality in long term relationships, sexual function, and women's sexuality.
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