What Happens Inside Your Brain During An Orgasm, Because, Really, What The Eff Is Going On Up There?

Have you ever thought about orgasms? I mean, like really thought about what’s going on in your brain and been perplexed as you tried to conceive the how and why and what of it all. If that’s the case, then you’re in good company, because scientists don’t really know all that much about orgasms either. For decades researchers have been monitoring the brain activity of men and women during an orgasm. “The amount of speculation versus actual data on both the function and the value of orgasm is remarkable,” says sex researcher Julie Heiman. But it’s not for lack of trying, that’s for sure.

Through the use of fMRI machines and PET scanners, scientists have tried to fully understand the process not only for the sake of knowing what the eff is up in there, but so they can help those who have trouble achieving orgasms finally get their day in the sun. Everyone should experience an orgasm at least once, although thousands of times would be ideal.

Although there’s still so much more to learn, what scientists have learned so far it’s pretty interesting stuff. For starters, when you orgasm your brain is totally consumed by it. Studies have found there is not a specific part of the brain that interprets orgasms, as is the case with the rest of our bodily functions, but that it’s everywhere, essentially creating an overload of stimulation.

When it comes to just how long that stimulation overload lasts, researchers have pinned it down to about 20 seconds for women and 10 seconds for men. But while it’s clear that women experience a longer orgasm and the brain pattern is similar during orgasm for both genders, the jury is still out on who gets the greater pleasure.

Because there’s so much action going on in our brains when we climax, scientists have noted that fear and impulse control diminish (maybe that’s why I always want to yell out, “I love you!” even if it’s a one-night stand?), and hormones released create for greater pain tolerance. This could explain why in heightened moment of sexuality, those who practice BDSM can handle a whole boatload of pain than they can normally.

The studies have also found that while some definitely struggle to orgasm, others can bring themselves to climax by just thinking about it. As Rutgers neuroscientist Barry Komisaruk explains, “Their brain activity is very similar to women who have orgasms from physical self-stimulation," which is just further proof that the brain is muy, muy powerful and badass.

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Rounding out what bits of knowledge scientists have learned about orgasms is that, contrary to belief, women can orgasm without clitoral stimulation. It was through a study of female participates who were paralyzed form the waist down that, despite not being able to feel clitoral stimulation, were still able to orgasm. Based on fMRI results, the theory is the vagus nerve, that connects the brain to the cervix and uterus, transmits the necessary stimulation to provide for a climax. Basically, those who just can’t get there via clit stimulation still have hope of experiencing the all mighty orgasm in another way.

But despite these findings, orgasms still remain, relatively, a mystery, which may not be a bad thing. With orgasms being the most pleasurable sensation that one can experience naturally, either alone or with the partner, why overthink it? Sure, it serves an evolutionary and biological purpose, but more than anything, it serves as a great way to kill some time. The rest of it, we'll figure out in due time.

Images: Fabio Zenoardo/Flickr; Giphy