Scientific article
Open access

Toward an understanding of the cerebral substrates of woman's orgasm

Published inNeuropsychologia, vol. 45, no. 12, p. 2645-2659
Publication date2007

The way women experience orgasm is of interest to scientists, clinicians, and laypeople. Whereas the origin and the function of a woman's orgasm remains controversial, the current models of sexual function acknowledge a combined role of central (spinal and cerebral) and peripheral processes during orgasm experience. At the central level, although it is accepted that the spinal cord drives orgasm, the cerebral involvement and cognitive representation of a woman's orgasm has not been extensively investigated. Important gaps in our knowledge remain. Recently, the astonishing advances of neuroimaging techniques applied in parallel with a neuropsychological approach allowed the unravelling of specific functional neuroanatomy of a woman's orgasm. Here, clinical and experimental findings on the cortico-subcortical pathway of a woman's orgasm are reviewed and compared with the neural basis of a man's orgasm. By defining the specific brain areas that sustain the assumed higher-order representation of a woman's orgasm, this review provides a foundation for future studies. The next challenge of functional imaging and neuropsychological studies is to understand the hierarchical interactions between these multiple cortical areas, not only with a correlation analysis but also with high spatio-temporal resolution techniques demonstrating the causal necessity, the temporal time course and the direction of the causality. Further studies using a multi-disciplinary approach are needed to identify the spatio-temporal dynamic of a woman's orgasm, its dysfunctions and possible new treatments.

  • Brain/anatomy & histology/physiology
  • Cerebral Cortex/physiology
  • Cognition/physiology
  • Diagnostic Imaging
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Individuality
  • Limbic System/physiology
  • Male
  • Neurosecretory Systems/physiology
  • Orgasm/physiology
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Spinal Cord/physiology
  • Terminology as Topic
Citation (ISO format)
BIANCHI-DEMICHELI, Francesco, ORTIGUE, Stéphanie. Toward an understanding of the cerebral substrates of woman’s orgasm. In: Neuropsychologia, 2007, vol. 45, n° 12, p. 2645–2659. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2007.04.016
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Article (Published version)
Article (Accepted version)
ISSN of the journal0028-3932

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