High-intensity Erotic Visual Stimuli De-activate the Primary Visual Cortex in Women

Hieu K. Huynh, Caroline Beers, Antoon Willemsen, Erna Lont, Ellen Laan, Rudi Dierckx, Monique Jansen, Michael Sand, Willibrord Weijmar Schultz, Gert Holstege

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Introduction. The primary visual cortex, Brodmann's area (BA 17), plays a vital role in basic survival mechanisms in humans. In most neuro-imaging studies in which the volunteers have to watch pictures or movies, the primary visual cortex is similarly activated independent of the content of the pictures or movies. However, in case the volunteers perform demanding non-visual tasks, the primary visual cortex becomes de-activated, although the amount of incoming visual sensory information is the same. Aim. Do low- and high-intensity erotic movies, compared to neutral movies, produce similar de-activation of the primary visual cortex? Methods. Brain activation/de-activation was studied by Positron Emission Tomography scanning of the brains of 12 healthy heterosexual premenopausal women, aged 1847, who watched neutral, low- and high-intensity erotic film segments. Main Outcome Measures. We measured differences in regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF) in the primary visual cortex during watching neutral, low-intensity erotic, and high-intensity erotic film segments. Results. Watching high-intensity erotic, but not low-intensity erotic movies, compared to neutral movies resulted in strong de-activation of the primary (BA 17) and adjoining parts of the secondary visual cortex. Conclusions. The strong de-activation during watching high-intensity erotic film might represent compensation for the increased blood supply in the brain regions involved in sexual arousal, also because high-intensity erotic movies do not require precise scanning of the visual field, because the impact is clear to the observer. Huynh HK, Beers C, Willemsen A, Lont E, Laan E, Dierckx R, Jansen M, Sand M, Weijmar Schultz W, and Holstege G. High-intensity erotic visual stimuli de-activate the primary visual cortex in women. J Sex Med 2012;9:15791587
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1579-1587
Journaljournal of sexual medicine
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2012

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