For the chapter Sex & MRIs, an abstract glowing image of a couple kissing.

FREE Chapter: MRIs of Sexual Arousal

MRIs or neuroimaging studies of the brain and crotch are the future of sex research. However, there currently exist serious limitations of brain-imaging technology and human behavior. This chapter will give you an idea of the challenges that researchers have to deal with as they are exploring this virgin territory. Understanding the limitations of current technology is especially important given the media’s penchant for making way too much of findings that are tentative and have yet to be replicated and validated.

When researchers were looking for the parts of the brain that light up during sexual arousal, they discovered that parts of the brain were actually shutting down. This is the opposite from what you would think. Shouldn’t sexual arousal light up the brain, with sparks of activity arc- ing from ear to ear? However, it appears that in order to free ourselves to become fully aroused, we need to shut down parts of our brains. This would validate what women often say who take our sex survey. When asked to describe what intercourse feels like when it’s really good, they often say the rest of the world disappears, for example:

“When it’s really good, I feel like the world just stops and my mind goes blank and all I want to do is feel every single move, and enjoy each breath. But when its bad, I can’t stop thinking about everything other than what is really going on. My mind will be racing.” female age 22

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