How the Female Brain Responds to Genital Touch
The thickness of the cortical region varies among women, associated with its use
The exact location of the brain area representing genital touch varies among women. The new research in JNeurosci (Journal of Neurosciences) from Neurocure PI Christine Heim and colleagues also found the region was thicker the more frequently the participants engaged in sexual intercourse.
The somatosensory cortex devotes brain space to detecting touch for each part of the body. But the exact location of the female genital field in this map had been controversial. Previous studies produced conflicting results because of less precise mapping methods.
Knop et al. used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to map the exact representation of female genitalia by measuring the brain’s response to a membrane vibrating over the clitoral region. The study was designed to take great care to avoid any discomfort the participants could experience when targeting such a sensitive body region. The somatosensory cortex represented the genitals next to the hips, matching the body’s anatomy. However, the precise location varied from woman to woman. The thickness of the genital field varied with the frequency of sexual intercourse, suggesting the region’s structure alters in relation to its use. These results allow for future studies examining the role of the genital field in healthy sexual function, sexual dysfunction, and especially in the long-term consequences of sexual abuse. Based on this precise mapping, future work can now potentially target the genital representation for treatment of clinical conditions.
Prof. Christine Heim
Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin
Institute of Medical Psychology