An important discovery on the clitoris!
For the first time, researchers have been able to precisely define the location of the representation of the clitoris in the brains of women.
Their study, published Monday in the scientific journal JNeurosci, further shows that the area of the brain activated during stimulation of the clitoris is more extensive in women who have more sex.
It was performed by stimulating the clitoris of 20 women, while performing an MRI of their brains.
Does a larger area allow better perception of sensations? And is the size of this area what prompts more intercourse, or does frequent intercourse make it grow? Impossible to say at the moment, say the researchers.
But this work could help develop better treatments for people who have suffered sexual violence or have sexual disorders in the future.
“How the female genitals are represented in the human somatosensory cortex is completely under-studied,” Christine Heim, professor of medical psychology at Charité University Hospital in Berlin, told AFP, and co. -author of the study.
“And this lack of knowledge has hampered research both on standard sexual behaviors, but also on pathological conditions,” she added.
When a part of the body is affected, neural activity is triggered in the somatosensory cortex. Each part of the body corresponds to a different area of the brain, forming a sort of body map.
But until now, the precise place dedicated to the female genitalia has remained a subject of debate.
Previous studies had sometimes placed it below the representation of the foot, others near that of the hip. In question: imprecise stimulation techniques (for example by oneself or a partner), causing the simultaneous touching of other parts of the body, or triggering an excitation, thus blurring the results.
In 2005, using a technique imitating a very localized tactile sensation, researchers were able to determine the precise location of the representation for men of their gender. But that hadn't been done in women yet.
To remedy this, 20 healthy women aged 18 to 45 were selected.
For stimulation, a small round object specifically designed for the occasion was applied above the underwear to level of the clitoris: thanks to air jets, a small membrane began to vibrate slightly.
The approach was intended to be “as comfortable as possible” for the participants, underlines John-Dylan Haynes, co -author of the study.
Eight stimulations of the clitoris were carried out, of 10 seconds each, interspersed with 10 seconds of rest & # 8212; as well as eight stimuli on the back of the right hand for comparison.
Conclusion: for both women and men, the representation of the genitals is well located near that of the hip.
< p> However, the precise location varies for each woman within this area.
The researchers then investigated whether this area exhibited different characteristics depending on sexual activity.
The 20 women were asked about the frequency of their intercourse over the past year, as well as since. the start of their sex life.
Then, for each of them, the researchers determined the ten points most activated in the brain during stimulation, and measured the area obtained.
“We have found a link between the thickness of the genital area and the frequency of intercourse”, especially in the last 12 months, explains Christine Heim. “The more intercourse, the thicker the area.”
Brain plasticity is well known: parts of the brain develop as a function is used.
But a causal link could not be directly established here for the moment.
Previous work, carried out on animals, has however shown that stimulation of the genitals of rats and mice did lead to an expansion of the area of the brain corresponding to these organs.
The study n & rsquo ; also did not determine whether a larger area resulted in better perception.
But Christine Heim, in a study published in 2013, had previously shown that people who had suffered traumatic sexual violence had a genital area reduced.
“We hypothesized, at the time, that this might be the brain's response to limit the harmful effect of the abuse,” she explained, specifying that other studies would be necessary to verify it.
In the future, the goal is to develop ways to help patients: the researcher wishes to study whether certain sexual disorders are linked to alterations genital area. Therapies aimed at “training” this area could then, perhaps, be considered.