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Medical Science Of Orgasm

  1. Feb 3, 2007 #1
    We've all had orgasms particuarly the sexual kind. I want to know what causes an orgasm. Is it just mental and nerve inmpulses or are there chemicals involved? IS it all neurotansmitters or are there hormones excreted into out blood? Ca you have aan orgasm(sexual) without any feeling or stimulation?
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  3. Feb 3, 2007 #2


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    I think this is something to research. You seem interested in psychology and neuroscience, so perhaps you should look into those subjects.
  4. Feb 3, 2007 #3


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    I've moved your thread to M&B sciences because, as verty pointed out, this really deals with neuroscience.

    Just to clarify a few things that seem to be confused in your original post, neurotransmitters ARE chemicals, so mental and nerve impulses do involve chemicals.

    There are two different things that people refer to when talking about orgasm in layman's terms. One is the contractions of the muscles of the reproductive tract at sexual climax, and the other is the "euphoric" sensation that accompanies it. Is your question specifically related to one of these? Given the last question of yours, I'm not sure which you are asking about. For example, a paraplegic male can achieve an ejaculation with electrical stimulation, but does not feel an orgasm. This relies entirely on reflexes present within the lower spinal cord. The feeling of orgasm involves higher brain functions as well.

    One thing I can point out is that if you are referring specifically to the feeling of euphoria or pleasure associated with orgasm, and not the physical muscle contractions, this is very difficult to study. We don't know if animals have that same feeling as humans do, and there are only a few countries in the world where humans can be studied, such as with fMRI (a type of brain scan), during orgasm (in many countries, such studies are considered unethical), so the research studies available on the subject are limited. If you are referring to the muscle contractions that in males help expel semen, and in females, may help move the semen deeper into the reproductive tract, then there are more studies in animals that can help give insight into the neural pathways involved (these are both at the level of spinal reflexes and higher brain functions).

    And, as a last note, I would hope that not all of our members have experienced an orgasm, but perhaps the majority have at least read about it or learned about it in school. We do have members in their early teens here, and people even younger can join with parental permission. I also mention this by way of a cautionary comment for others who may participate in this thread...keep in mind the age of our audience and please keep the discussion purely science-based.
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2007
  5. Feb 9, 2007 #4


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    The question is related to motivations in general. Why do you get hungry and then feel satiated when you eat? How do these bioligical imperitives arise? A computer or other machine lacks imperitives ans that is a major difference between organisms and synthetics.
  6. Mar 27, 2007 #5


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    I'll mention a spinal cord implant device that was developed as treatment for chronic pain victims. On Unscrewed with Martin Sargent, and ABC news this was reported on:
  7. Mar 28, 2007 #6
    Well, yes and no. It would be a trivial matter to design a robot that "experiences hunger". It could be accomplished along the following lines:

    a ballon like stomach with strain guages that are periodically sampled by a chip, and a set of valves and peristaltic pumps which gently massage the contents of the ballon into the next conduit. You could also add various sensitive transducers in the lining of the balloon which measure such things as fat content (impedance), sugar content (there is an electrode for such), etc.

    Now the sex issue is a bit tougher to tackle. Still one could come up with code that approximates libidinal urges say on a scale of 0 to 100:

    16 year old male, always at 110 may hit peaks of 200.
    married couple with <=2 years of marriage=65
    married couple 2 to 5 years=35
    married couple 5-10=20
    married couple 10+=10.

    Now the latter are with respect to their partners. :wink:
  8. Apr 1, 2007 #7


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    You wouldn't use code and numbers to simulate it, you'd have competing functions using a limted set of resources.

    Daily energy budget:
    1. Bend girders. (requires 8 hours, brings perks such as money)
    2. Regenerate (requires 8 hours)
    3. Learn (requires 5 hours)
    4. Keep fueled. (requires 3 one hour blocks)
    5. Create a replacement. (requires 1 hour commitment)

    You don't have the daily budget to do everything. i.e creating a replacement doesn't have to happen today, but as time goes on, neglecting it will get bad. You'll have to You will have to rob Peter to pay Paul. (Say, skip a meal or an hour of learning.)
  9. Dec 26, 2007 #8
    To start off, one can not program an emotion into anything. It is not possible. The reason is because while our computers are based off of a complex pattern of electricity, living things are based off of a complex pattern of chemicals.

    for males:

    When one reaches the first state of orgasm - arousal - there is released into the bloodstream Adrenaline and Noradrenaline (potent body stimulants), which causes arousal (among several other effects).

    Your heart rate increases, blood flow increases, etc.

    When you orgasm, into your bloodstream are released: Prolactin (lactation hormone), Oxytocin (substance related to trust and niceness), Phenethylamine (substance related to love, can be found in chocolate), and Endorphin (related to pain regulation - opiates work on these to cause its effects.)

    At any given time these may also cause an increased amount of serotonin flowing through the body, improving mood (mdma works on serotonin to cause its effects, which of course is to feel really good. Do teh math)

    As a result, chemically, you lactate, feel an overwhelming sense of trust, your heart races and blood pressure increases, you feel a sense of love, and experience a rush similar to a short but strong dose of morphine. All the while you feel really happy :)

    It is a result of phenethylamine and endorphin that we crave orgasm. They are addictive. If you ever wondered how hard it would be to quit heroin, imagine how hard it would be for you never to have sex again and see where you stand :p. Phenethylamine is also released during states of love, not only orgasm, albeit they are closely intertwined (the 'butterfly' feeling you get when you ask somebody out.)

    I would imagine Phenethylamine would be released for longer periods of time than the others if one is with a partner. I would also imagine it's blocked or in lower amounts to those who just want sex, not love. Very potent **** :)

    Just do yourself a favor and don't be worrying about this kind of crap when it's actually happening to you - chemicals cause wonderful experiences without your knowledge :).
  10. Dec 26, 2007 #9


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    With that logic, you might say the same thing about any function - speech, movement, decision-making etc. but I think you'd be wrong.

    The phenomenon in question does not, by definition, have to be specific to chemical processes.
  11. Dec 26, 2007 #10


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    I have to agree with Dave that any processes that achieve the same result are equal, be they chemical or otherwise.
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 27, 2007
  12. Jan 11, 2008 #11
    But what stimulates the sex drive? The desire to have sexual intercourse? Is it the chemical reaction we crave, or some emotional element? I think the answer to this goes in hand with the original question.
  13. Jan 11, 2008 #12
    Maybe you could clarify that a bit. I mean at some level it all comes down to electrochemical events whether emotion, perception/sensation, or a "rational" more intellectual process. The invention of sex by nature as a more efficient means of giving rise to biological diversity, came with a price tag. It takes energy and the mutual cooperation (usually) of another organism to make it happen. Now bacteria and plants use sexual genetic recombination as well and likely derive little pleasure from the process.

    But higher organisms that have available to them a larger repertiore of behavioral responses, maybe not quite what we call free will. but at least available to them lets assume the choice of engaging in sexual behavior or not, will need an innate drive to reproduce. Otherwise why expend the energy?

    At what point does it become pleasureable to fulfill that drive? Interesting question. Not too many of the female primates experience orgasm iirc. I don't know that its exclusively a human capacity. I guess what I'm trying to say and not very well, is that the more complex the organism, the greater the payoff seems to be. Learning thru play strikes me as a parallel paradigm--in other words, the freer the organism to engage in non-survival related activities, the more pleasure/drive that needs to be hardwired into the brain to ensure the behavior occurs.
  14. Jan 11, 2008 #13


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    I do believe that emotions are a physiological anticipation of a given event. That anticipation may be hardwired or learned.

    eg. The emotion of anger is comprised of your body's attempt to prepare itself (adrenaline, heart rate, etc.) for some sort of fight. I believe all other emotions can be explained this way too.
  15. Jan 11, 2008 #14
    The question I have is whether all emotion can be broken down into a unique combination of fear, delight, and boredom. Maybe these aren't the best primary colors, but I just can't believe there are unique pathways for everthing from angst to zaniness. My theory is that sociopaths and autistics for example are color blind. So there is something missing from the above--is empathy an emotion?
  16. Jan 11, 2008 #15


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    An interessting concept.

    But I dunno, mammals are pretty complex creatures. I don't see why there has to be any limit to the number of distinct emotions.
  17. Jan 11, 2008 #16
    \No, the issue is whether one can build upon a small set of basic emotions into the spectrum and symphony of what we enjoy, analogous to all the colors one can see with three photoreceptors.
  18. Jan 11, 2008 #17


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    I get the analogy to colours. But what makes you think it is an applicable analogy?

    Why is a set of, say, two dozen distinct, though quite similar, emotions not acceptable? What is the basis for narrowing the palette?
  19. Jan 12, 2008 #18

    Upon the following reasoning: If one is to accept the theory of evolution with all its ramifications, then one must suppose behavior along with all of natures physical manifestations was subject to the same forces. My notion is that along these lines, and say looking at even bacteria which can be noth physically and chemically attracted and repelled--that in the beginning so to speak there was love and hate. Obviously i anthropomorphize these primitive reactions--but if I am to understand evolution it makes more sense to add nuance to these emotions--I enjoy for instance a love/hate relationship with my ex.

    If you look at photoreceptor evolution, we were not one day created with three flavors. This is one part of evolution that seems to be well characterized. So in the same vein I suppose it is much simpler to build on what already exists then to create de novo a dozen parallel pathways with which the organism has little or no experience with.
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