Added: Steffany Branum - Date: 02.03.2022 22:13 - Views: 15532 - Clicks: 9322
Try out PMC Labs and tell us what you think. Learn More. Orgasm is one of the most intense pleasures attainable to an organism, yet its underlying mechanisms remain poorly understood. On the basis of existing literatures, this article introduces a novel mechanistic model of sexual stimulation and orgasm.
In doing so, it characterizes the neurophenomenology of sexual trance and climax, describes parallels in dynamics between orgasms and seizures, speculates on possible evolutionary origins of sex differences in orgasmic responding, and proposes avenues for future experimentation. Here, a model is introduced wherein sexual stimulation induces entrainment of coupling mechanical and neuronal oscillatory systems, thus creating synchronized functional networks within which multiple positive feedback processes intersect synergistically to contribute to sexual experience.
These processes generate states of deepening sensory absorption and trance, potentially culminating in climax if critical thresholds are surpassed. The centrality of rhythmic stimulation and its modulation by salience for surpassing these thresholds suggests ways in which differential orgasmic responding between individuals—or with different partners—may serve as a mechanism for ensuring adaptive mate choice. Because the production of rhythmic stimulation combines honest indicators of fitness with cues relating to potential for investment, differential orgasmic response may serve A real orgasmic encounter influence the probability of continued sexual encounters with specific mates.
Given that reproduction is the bottom line of evolutionary fitness, it is unsurprising that orgasm would be a source of intense pleasure Pfaus et al. Although these mechanisms exhibit extensive homology across species, there may also be important variability based on differences in niche and nervous system complexity Georgiadis, Despite several intriguing neuroimaging investigations Georgiadis et al.
Here, I introduce a model in which the rhythmic nature of sexual activity is central for understanding the phenomenology of sexual trance and orgasm. Further, I suggest this mechanism implies particular ways in which aspects of sexual responding have been shaped by evolution to promote adaptive mate choice.
This stimulation is typically achieved with either physical manipulation of the genitals from body—body contact, or sometimes from vibrotactile mechanical devices. Although orgasm-producing activities are usually focused on the genitals, orgasm is sometimes achieved by stimulating other body parts, and sometimes even through thought alone.
Some aspects of orgasmic experience may be unique to humans, but many of these mechanisms are shared across all mammals, all vertebrates, and even invertebrates Izhikevich, Sexual climax, however, involves more than just the release of male-specific fixed action patterns for ejaculation. Rather, behavioral and physiological processes suggestive of orgasm have been observed in a wide variety of both male and female organisms, involving distinct affective displays e. That is, if it is the case that males vary in their rhythm-producing abilities, and if this variability correlates with genetic quality, then females could select better genes for their offspring if they bias reproduction toward these fitter males.
For most of evolution, it may have been the case that rhythmic ability and rhythm sensitivity were primarily selected for in the context of female mate choice. The possible adaptive ificance of rhythmic ability is suggested by the complexity of dynamics involved in sexual activities. First, in order to generate steady rhythmic motion, it is necessary for the nervous system to drive motoric effector systems with precise frequencies and amplitudes A real orgasmic encounter that forces spatially and temporally align to regulate the frequency of ongoing oscillations.
These control challenges are further compounded when this body is being used to precisely stimulate a separate mechanical system, which may itself be oscillating or gyrating. Furthermore, optimal sexual interaction involves modulating activity based on cues ranging from gross movements, to vocal als, to subtle patterns of emotional expression. The more variables to be integrated, the more difficult this integration becomes, and the more sophistication required for the controlling nervous system.
Some of these factors would be important for all reproducing organisms; others would be unique to humans. Human sexual performance depends on being capable of not only switching between multiple rhythms, but of inferring the best times for these changes. In this way, sexual interactions may test not only the sensorimotor quality of mates but also the sensitivity of their social intelligence.
That is, the more attentiveness devoted to a sexual interaction, the more likely that either the experience or sexual partner is valued, and so the more likely that there will be a desire for future interaction, and so the more likely that there either is or will be investment in that particular relationship.
Investment aling might be a particularly important factor in humans, both because of the high A real orgasmic encounter of resources necessary for successful child rearing Geary, and also because humans can consciously modulate the quality of interactions based on complex social goals Tomasello, However, there may be unique mechanisms by which sexual compatibility and orgasm function as tests of mate quality in humans.
Although such evolutionarily ancient adaptations could be sufficient for explaining many aspects of orgasm, rhythms may also explain important response properties in more recently evolved structures, such as the neo-cortex. Specifically, I propose that rhythms may be particularly likely to affect cortical dynamics via entrainment of neural synchrony, thus enhancing perceptual vividness and emotional intensity. There have been numerous studies exploring the potential adaptive ificance of orgasm.
One of the novel contributions of this paper is a characterization of proximate-level mechanistic details by which ultimate-level evolutionary selective pressures were served Tinbergen, The model is also compatible with several other evolutionary hypotheses of orgasm e. Rather, the neurophysiological underpinnings of sexual trance and orgasm suggest a mechanism so powerful that it is likely to have had a profound impact on mate choice in both sexes. I propose that synchrony promotes the intensity of sexual experience through at least three mechanisms: 1 enhanced summation of excitatory neural activity, 2 increased attention via integration of mutually informing data streams, and 3 maximal driving of neural systems for reward and somatic response.
On the level of basic neurophysiology, neurons are more likely to fire action potentials if their inputs arrive within a narrow window of time relative to each other Schutter, This temporal summation suggests a straightforward role for synchrony in enhancing neural aling: synchronized neural systems allow inputs to arrive within sufficiently narrow windows of time such that neurons are more likely to transmit further als by firing.
Experiences have tactile, visual, auditory, olfactory, and gustatory aspects, all of which are associated in specific ways based on their common causation by particular multi-aspect properties of the world Hayek, Although still awaiting empirical verification, there are several reasons to believe that sexual rhythms are likely to entrain synchronous brain oscillations.
First, it is clear that at least some degree of rhythmic stimulation facilitates sexual enjoyment Joannides, ; Kaplan, and that an overly irregular or erratic rhythm can be disruptive. A second reason to think sexual rhythms can entrain brain oscillations is their multi-modal richness. Sexual activity either interpersonal or solitary A real orgasmic encounter involves synchronized rhythmic production of related somatic, visceral, visual, auditory, olfactory, or gustatory als.
This multimodal informational synergy may not only provide clearer consciousness of percepts relating to sexual stimulation but may also provide synergistically greater entrainment effects. Indeed, increased comprehension of stimulus characteristics has been observed to increase neural entrainment from the rhythmic patterns associated with language and music Burger et al.
Multimodal synergy may serve similar functions for enhancing the potency of sexual stimulation Rowe, Further, sexual stimulation is such that greater attention is likely to result in greater enjoyment. The more one can attend, the better sex feels; and the better sex feels, the more one wants to attend. This setup provides a bidirectional and mutually reinforcing relationship between pleasure and attention, thus instantiating positive feedback toward deepening sexual experience. Preliminary evidence suggests that a bidirectional relationship between pleasure and entrainment exists for music perception Trost et al.
Although entrainment-related attention may be of a highly concentrated variety, it is also possible that more diffusely focused attention may produce maximal pleasure in some individuals. This may vary not only between people but also within the same person depending on the A real orgasmic encounter of the sexual activity. Whichever aspects of sexual experience are most rewarding, similar positive feedback is likely to occur with respect to patterns of attending that facilitate those experiences. The sensations of arousal are both pleasurable in-and-of-themselves and also allow for more effective sexual stimulation e.
That is, the affordances Gibson, and al transduction properties of an aroused body are better suited for facilitating positive feedback amplification of pleasure, possibly via mechanisms of neural entrainment. The present model of orgasm and sexual trance — and ecstatic experience more generally — is one in which rhythmic perception and action lead to entrainment, enhancing perception of entraining stimuli, thereby further enhancing entrainment, thus creating a positive feedback cycle of deepening sexual absorption.
In this way, progression into deeper states of sexual enjoyment may lead to qualitatively different experiential dynamics. Rather, many of the qualities of sexual pleasure may specifically be driven by a synchrony-facilitated state of sensory absorption leading to trance. Our conscious field of awareness has a limited capacity, with upper bounds to how much we can be aware of at any point in time.
We partially overcome these limitations by biasing the degree to which different representations are active within conscious experience i. However, this process is not without tradeoffs.
Enhanced processing of some representations can come at the expense of reduced cognitive resources being available for others. Enhancing arousal and synchrony can both be thought of as means of increasing the brightness, focus, or width of this spotlight, but not unboundedly.
With respect to body awareness, intensely focusing on immediate sensations—such as those produced by rhythmic stimulation — is likely to reduce the amount of mental capacity available for other things, such as self-narratives Damasio, Such an experience of sensate focusing and altered self-processing may be most appropriately referred to as a kind of trance state.
That is, the reasons we enjoy sexual experiences may overlap heavily with the reasons we enjoy musical experience, both in terms of proximate i. Some aspects of this model are likely unique to humans and their advanced capacity for high-level symbolic cognition Tomasello, Six factors have been identified as characterizing flow states Csikszentmihalyi, : 1 intensely focused concentration, 2 merged action and awareness, 3 loss of self-consciousness, A real orgasmic encounter personal effectiveness, 5 alterations of subjective time, and 6 intrinsic reward.
Most of these factors would be similarly apt for describing the kinds of peak experiences associated with sexual rhythms, and rhythm-induced trance-like states may be an important reason that sex is such an effective source of flow.
Both sexual and non-sexual flow states may be rewarding because of enhanced engagement with pleasurable activities, allowing self-processes to be outcompeted for attentional resources, thus allowing for deeper pleasurable engagement.
Importantly, it should be noted that although sexual activity involving genital stimulation may be particularly conducive to sensory absorption, a trance model could also be appropriate for describing a variety of less-explicit sexual interactions, ranging from kissing to dancing, and perhaps even some kinds of intimate conversation.
This understanding of sexual experience as fundamentally related to trance or flow le to many testable hypotheses. For further hypotheses and proposed experiments, see Appendix. If deactivation of frontal midline structures were observed during sexual interaction something that would be difficult to measure in real timethen this might suggest disruption of self-related processing of the kind present in trance states Heinzel et al.
However, considering the methodological challenges of studying sexual climax with neuroimaging, and given that this literature only has a few small-sample-size studies, caution is needed in interpreting either the presence or absence of findings. Much of orgasmic experience can probably be explained as an intensification of sexual pleasure and a deepening of the ly described altered states of consciousness.
However, it should also be noted that distinct emergent properties Anderson, could be associated with different degrees of sexual absorption, perhaps with qualitatively different dynamics for different levels of trance. In these ways, the neurophenomenology of orgasm is both similar to and continuous with other forms of sexual trance.
However, unique aspects of orgasmic experience arise from major physiological and neuroendocrine changes accompanying sexual climax. Furthermore, these central pattern generators may also send collaterals to both hypothalamic and brainstem nuclei that regulate neuromodulator, neuropeptide, and opioid levels Pfaus et al. Alternatively, more indirect pathways might be involved, as would be the case if spontaneous muscle contractions themselves caused systemic neurochemical changes, perhaps via ascending inputs from stretch-receptor stimulation Ferguson, ; Odent, Moreover, to the extent that trance is associated with strongly synchronous neural activity, this may allow for the greatest degree of convergent inputs to hypothalamic and brainstem structures, thus causing the release of these hormones and neurochemicals to coincide with peak trance.
Orgasm has been likened to the rush of heroin injection Chessick, ; Holstege et al. In these ways, the intense pleasure of orgasm is produced by a complex probably opioid-dominated neurochemical cocktail being administered during a peak experience of sensual trance, thus creating an even deeper state of sexual ecstasy. First, they note some forms of epilepsy are capable of generating orgasm-like pre-ictal auras. Finally, they observe that some aspects of orgasmic expression can be likened to the uncoordinated motor responses present during grand mal seizures and argue that widespread fMRI activations during orgasm suggest similar mass activations as observed in epilepsy.
Notably, both sexual stimulation and tooth brushing involve rhythmic stimulation via high-bandwidth sensory channels. Considering the importance of neural synchrony in the pathogenesis of seizures Sobayo et al. For both sexual stimulation A real orgasmic encounter reflex seizures, rhythmic inputs may help to entrain a synchronized functional network through which neural als can more readily propagate Liao et al.
With respect to sexual stimulation, elevated synchrony could promote greater intensity of experience and perhaps paroxysmal events. With respect to seizures, elevated synchrony could promote conditions under which anomalous firing patterns are more likely to percolate across the brain and thus produce much of the pathophysiology of epilepsy.
Depending on where the dysregulated activity spre, this disrupted information processing could interfere with the ability of the brain to model self and world, thus disrupting consciousness. These activation cascades, however, may be more self-limiting in orgasm and more dysregulated in epilepsy. Theta rhythms are also heavily implicated in models of temporal lobe epilepsy Arcaro et al.
Spindle activity is commonly interpreted as a marker of reactivation of hippocampal-based memories Andrade et al. In theory, increased copulatory-phase theta activity could indicate the establishment of a network of enhanced pre-orgasmic functional connectivity, with subsequent spindle activity indicating the learning of partner characteristics from associated sexual stimulation.
There are multiple evolutionarily sensible reasons for sexual climax not to be triggered too easily, such as avoiding wasteful energetic expenditures, missed mating opportunities, poorly chosen mating partners, potentially dangerous situations from poorly timed distractions, or failing to provide adequately reinforcing stimulation to a desired partner. In the following sections, I will describe potential factors influencing orgasms as variable-threshold systems, considering both proximate mechanisms and evolutionary selective pressures.
The discussion above has focused on the rhythmic nature of sexual stimulation as being central to erotic experience, suggesting that sexual arousal may be fruitfully understood as a kind of trance state, facilitated by positive feedback between entrainment and pleasurable sensory absorption.
Particularly robust neural activity enabled by entrainment-enhanced synchrony may constitute a means of surpassing the high thresholds of stimulation required for orgasm and associated neuroplastic processes. With respect to sexual stimulation and orgasm, degree of entrainment and overall neuronal excitation are likely to be heavily modulated by factors such as degree of attending or arousal. In this way, although particular external rhythms may be more or less conducive to sexual enjoyment, they are neither sufficient for explaining the degree to which internal rhythms are entrained, nor sufficient for explaining the likelihood or intensity of orgasms.A real orgasmic encounter
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