The findings, which were published in The Journal of Neuroscience, provide insight into healthy sex, the causes and potential treatments for sexual dysfunction or unhappiness, and the long-term impacts of sexual abuse.
The somatosensory cortex is the area of the brain that detects touch in general, but different regions of the body are represented by distinct places within this region. For years, scientists have tried to determine the exact position for sensory stimulation of the clitoris, but their findings have been inconsistent. There’s a logical reason for this: just as sexual experiences range from one woman to the next, so does the exact spot associated to the clitoris in the somatosensory brain.
The thickness of the area in each woman varied depending on how many times she had sex in the previous year. And, at least in part, the location and size of the region were determined by how frequently it was used.
Twenty healthy women who had no history of pregnancy, psychiatric or neurological illnesses, childhood abuse or neglect, sexually transmitted diseases, sexual disorders, or other ailments participated in the study. They were also neither menstruating or using any psychotropic medicines at the time of the study.
Each woman underwent MRI brain scans while wearing disposable underwear and a gadget over her clitoral area. The device vibrated lightly enough to stimulate the clitoral region, and it was kept in place using tape and a Velcro belt. The researchers compared the brain imaging from this sensory contact to the imaging from the backs of the women’s right hands when they used the identical device to stimulate them.
Unlike most previous studies, this one was able to stimulate only the clitoris without touching other neighboring body parts or creating significant sexual desire, allowing the researchers to pinpoint the brain region associated with sensory touch in that area.
This is also the first time that scientists have demonstrated a link between sex frequency in the previous year and during a person’s lifetime and the physical structure of the brain region associated with clitoral touch. An estimated 40% of women report having sexual problems in some way, and one out of every five girls has been sexually molested. This study advances researchers’ comprehension of those experiences and, potentially, how to assist them.