Sex is one of the basic needs of human beings. A study published in 2011 suggests that we think about sex more often during the day than about eating or sleeping. Men had pleasant thoughts up to 388 times, women up to 140 times. In searching for the origins of these thoughts, researchers, as is often the case, turned their attention to the brain and they looked for a pleasure center in neurological illusions. Well, after a decade they finally got it.
Because: US researchers have localized the sex drive of male rats. Scientists have been able to determine the pleasure center with the help of optogenetics. The method allows targeted manipulation and thus determination of neural circuits. Neurobiologist Nero Ahsa and his team not only found the switching center, but were also able to manipulate it in a targeted manner using optogenetics.
When the research team closed the station, the males would no longer mate, even if a female was with them. However, when the cells became reactivated, the animals could be induced to mate again, even right after ejaculation—although a rat’s resting period is typically five days. Big advantage for further research: Neuronal manipulation has no side effects.
But will it work for humans too? The rat brain is very similar to the human brain, so it is quite likely that we have a comparable neurocircuitry in this area. Such a discovery would lay the groundwork for drugs for pleasure. While existing drugs such as Viagra only dilate blood vessels and thus increase physical strength, one can specifically stimulate or reduce the pleasure center and thus the psychological component – from where everything begins.
Incidentally, because of neurological differences between the sexes, women have to wait even longer for equal chances. The researchers are yet to make a discovery similar to the one found in male mice and expect to work on it for a few more years. But then one can help women with sexual problems determine whether neuronal differences are innate and then understand them better.