Brain regions known to be involved in processing emotionally important stimuli are more activated when men view sexually arousing images than when women do, reports a paper in the April issue of Nature Neuroscience. The results may help to explain why visual stimuli appear to have a stronger influence on male sexual arousal.
Stephan Hamann and colleagues used functional magnetic resonance imaging to scan the brains of young adult men and women while the subjects viewed a series of sexual and neutral images. Within the brains of the men, sexually arousing images caused greater activation of two regions: the amygdala and the hypothalamus. This greater activation was seen in males even though the female subjects reported greater arousal in response to the images than the men, and although the brain's reward-processing regions were equally activated in both sexes. These results may explain why men seem to be more responsive to visual images of sex than women. However, whether this response is due to an inherent difference in the way male and female brains are wired, or whether males acquire this difference through experience, remains to be determined.
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