You may know what it feels like to have an orgasm — but do you know what it looks like?
You may know what it feels like to have an orgasm — but do you know what it looks like? Now, thanks to a team of researchers at Rutgers University, you can see the big “O” in all its colorful glory.
Nan Wise, a 54-year-old PhD student, sex therapist and associate on the research project, agreed to be the guinea pig. She was hooked up to a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanner and stimulated herself while the machine took “snapshots” of her brain every two seconds, across 80 different regions, The Guardian reported. Professor Barry Komisaruk and his team then spliced these snapshots together into an animated film. The movie is the first of its kind.
And Wise isn’t the only one to have participated in this project. Another female subject, Kayt Sukel, who also happens to be a science and travel writer, blogged about the experience, discussing the difficulty inherent in having an orgasm while “bolted” to a scanner:
It’s not the most romantic spot one might engage in self-loving. In fact, if you’ve ever spent time in an MRI scanner, it may seem nearly impossible.
Turns out — for both Wise and Sukel — the task at hand wasn’t impossible at all, and they got to have some fun, all in the name of science.
Watching the video, it’s hard not to be visually stimulated by the colors alone. (It’s really only a matter of time before someone on YouTube decides to post it with Katy Perry’s “Firework” playing in the background.) The color scale, which ranges from dark red to light yellow, represents the amount of oxygen that is being utilized in that section of the brain. As the orgasm reaches its climax, the image lights up.
Komisaruk recently presented his research at the Society for Neuroscience in Washington, DC, although it hasn’t been published in a peer-reviewed journal. He hopes that his work will not only allow scientists to understand why some men and women have trouble achieving orgasm, but also understand our body’s reaction to pleasure as a whole.
“We’re using orgasm as a way of producing pleasure. If we can learn how to activate the pleasure regions of the brain then that could have wider applications,” he told The Guardian.
Understanding and encouraging pleasure while making really interesting, surprisingly beautiful videos? Amen to that.
Related: Here are some of the potential, “added bonus” health benefits of having an orgasm:
Keeps Your Blood Flowing: According to Dr. Jennifer Berman, co-founder of the Female Sexual Medicine Center at UCLA, orgasms increase your circulation, keeping the blood flowing to your genital area. This in turn keeps your tissue healthy!
It’s A Form Of Cardio: Although it can’t be considered an alternative to daily exercise, having an orgasm is a cardiovascular activity. “Your heart rate increases, blood pressure increases [and your] respiratory rate increases,” says Berman. And because it’s akin to running in many physiological respects, your body also releases endorphins. Sounds like a pretty fun way to work your heart out.
Lifts Your Mood: Feeling down in the dumps? An orgasm might be just what you need to pick yourself up. In addition to endorphins, dopamine and oxytocin are also released during orgasm. All three of these hormones have what Berman terms “mood-enhancing effects.” In fact, dopamine is the same hormone that’s released when individuals use drugs such as cocaine — or eat something really delicious.
Helps You Sleep: A little pleasure may go a long way towards a good night’s rest. A recent survey of 1,800 women found that over 30 percent of them used sexual release as a natural sedative.
Keeps Your Brain Healthy: Having an orgasm not only works out your heart, but also your head. Barry Komisaruk, Ph.D.told Cosmopolitan that orgasms actually nourish the brain with oxygen. “Functional MRI images show that women’s brains utilize much more oxygen during orgasm than usual,” Komisaruk says.
It’s A Natural Painkiller: One thing that Victorian practitioners may have been onto is that orgasms can work to soothe certain aches and pains — namely migraines and menstrual cramps. (So now you know what to do next time you have a headache if you don’t feel like popping an Excedrin.) According to Berman, the contractions that make up an orgasm can actually work to evacuate blood clots during your period, providing some temporary relief.
It Relieves Stress: Most of our lives are so hectic that it’s hard to even imagine being relaxed. However, it turns out that sexual release can double as stress relief. Not only do the hormones help with this task, Berman says that being sexual also gives our minds a break: “When we’re stressed out and overextending ourselves, [we’re] not being in the moment. Being sexual requires us to focus on one thing only.”
Gives You A Healthy Glow: There actually might be something to the idea that we “glow” after sex. The hormone DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone), which shows increased levels during sexual excitement, can actually make your skin healthier.
Aids Your Emotional Health: Last but not least, when you know what it takes to make yourself orgasm, you may increase your emotional confidence and intelligence. “When you understand how your body works and … [that it] is capable of pleasure on its own, regardless of your partner status, you make much better decisions in relationships,” says Logan Levkoff, Ph.D., a sexologist and certified sexuality educator. “You don’t look to someone else to legitimize that you’re a sexual being.”