Cookies on this website
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Continue' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

Sexual behavior is critical to species survival, yet comparatively little is known about the neural mechanisms in the human brain. Here we systematically review the existing human brain imaging literature on sexual behavior and show that the functional neuroanatomy of sexual behavior is comparable to that involved in processing other rewarding stimuli. Sexual behavior clearly follows the established principles and phases for wanting, liking and satiety involved in the pleasure cycle of other rewards. The studies have uncovered the brain networks involved in sexual wanting or motivation/anticipation, as well as sexual liking or arousal/consummation, while there is very little data on sexual satiety or post-orgasmic refractory period. Human sexual behavior also interacts with other pleasures, most notably social interaction and high arousal states. We discuss the changes in the underlying brain networks supporting sexual behavior in the context of the pleasure cycle, the changes to this cycle over the individual's life-time and the interactions between them. Overall, it is clear from the data that the functional neuroanatomy of sex is very similar to that of other pleasures and that it is unlikely that there is anything special about the brain mechanisms and networks underlying sex.

Original publication

DOI

10.1016/j.pneurobio.2012.05.004

Type

Journal article

Journal

Prog Neurobiol

Publication Date

07/2012

Volume

98

Pages

49 - 81

Keywords

Aging, Animals, Arousal, Brain, Eating, Female, Frontal Lobe, Humans, Male, Mammals, Models, Biological, Neurons, Orgasm, Photic Stimulation, Satiation, Sex Characteristics, Sexual Behavior, Sexual Behavior, Animal, Sexuality