Jun 12, 2006
What a surprise! Medical researchers have discovered that even women’s brains light up when they look at erotic images.
Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis measured brainwave activity of 264 women as they viewed a series of 55 colour slides that contained various scenes from water skiers to snarling dogs to partially-clad couples in sensual poses.
What they found may seem like a “no brainer.” When study volunteers viewed erotic pictures, their brains produced electrical responses that were stronger than those elicited by other material that was viewed, no matter how pleasant or disturbing the other material may have been. This difference in brainwave response emerged very quickly, suggesting that different neural circuits may be involved in the processing of erotic images.
“That surprised us,” says WUSTL’s Andrey Anokhin, “We believed both pleasant and disturbing images would evoke a rapid response, but erotic scenes always elicited the strongest response.”
As subjects looked at the slides, electrodes on their scalps measured changes in the brain’s electrical activity called event-related potentials (ERPs). The researchers learned that regardless of a picture’s content, the brain acts very quickly to classify the visual image. The ERPs begin firing in the brain’s cortex long before a person is conscious of whether they are seeing a picture that is pleasant, unpleasant or neutral.
Previous research has suggested that men are more stimulated by erotic images than women. Anokhin says the fact that the women’s brains in this study exhibited such a quick response to erotic pictures suggests that, perhaps for evolutionary reasons, our brains are programmed to preferentially respond to erotic material.
“Usually men subjectively rate erotic material much higher than women,” he says. “So based on those data we would expect lower responses in women, but that was not the case. Women have responses as strong as those seen in men.”
So when one sees statistics on net usage that reveal porn accounts for 80% of traffic, it might not just be males who are using up all that bandwidth? Really? Well, I never!
What’s most intriguing though, is that when one searches for the original news release on this item from WUSTL, the cached page in Google shows the context for the phrase “erotic images elicit” as being:
“Attention grabber Erotic images elicit strong response from brain … When study…”
Well, WUSTL press officer, it certainly grabbed my attention. The news release could have done with a few more pictures though!