Books, Movies and More: How the Brain Responds to Erotic Stimuli – 06/04/2022

Watching a movie, reading an erotic book or even listening to music can be much more than a mere hobby. Experts guarantee that these are good options to let off steam, stimulate the imagination, awaken desires, have fun, relax and do things we wouldn’t do without a good impulse.

All this is possible thanks to the communication between the brain and the body. “When a person watches an erotic scene, the brain releases an electrical impulse, usually coming from the visual area, to a specific area of ​​our spinal column (areas known as S2, S3 and S4). This, in turn, sends another signal to the pubic region, where we have many nerve endings, in the case of men, in the penis, and in the case of women, inside the vagina”, explains André Souza, PhD in cognitive psychology and neuroscience from the University of Texas (USA).

The expert says that, physiologically, we have basically two types of nervous system: the sympathetic, which controls our automatic responses in situations of danger or stress, and the parasympathetic, responsible for regulating bodily functions that we are not aware of. “For example, now your heart is beating, and what makes it beat is this parasympathetic system, regardless of whether you want to or not”, says Souza. “That same system controls sweating, chills, everything we can’t consciously control,” he adds.

The parasympathetic system is also responsible for controlling sexual arousal. So, yes, there are physiological reasons why we get aroused when we are cognitively stimulated.

When we come across something erotic (and that we like), the CNS (central nervous system) stimulates desire, our memory (a previous record that was positive) and, consequently, the muscular and motor part of our body.

Experts consider erotic books one of the best sexual stimuli

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“That’s why some people feel aroused by touch, others with a smell, memories, or a voice. Because any aspect of memory that links to a sexual factor will cause this parasympathetic system to be activated”, says Souza.

Carmita Abdo, professor at FMUSP (School of Medicine at the University of São Paulo), coordinator of ProSex (Program of Studies in Sexuality at USP) and member of the national commission specialized in sexology at Febrasgo (Brazilian Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics Associations) highlights also that neurotransmitters related to pleasure, such as dopamine, enter the bloodstream during arousal in a more concentrated and intense way, which triggers another trigger for the act.

One of the neurotransmitters, the ACH (acetylcholine), will also promote physiological changes in the region. It travels to the blood vessels of the intimate region and there promotes their dilation. “This neurotransmitter enters the cells of the vessels and says: ‘A substance is released here to relax the region around this blood vessel’. This causes more blood to enter the blood vessel, increasing the volume of the region”, describes Souza, explaining that then the parasympathetic system is turned off and the sympathetic system is responsible for orgasm.

What are the benefits?

Sexual stimuli, in addition to the momentary pleasure they can provide, improve stress, sleep quality and stimulate intelligence and understanding of one’s own body, as explained by Josefa Ferreira, psychologist and psychoanalyst at the Holiste Psiquiatria clinic (BA).

“They become an important tool for a moment of overflowing, that is, going through an experience that, on a day-to-day basis, perhaps, you would not live, because it takes away the idea of ​​embarrassment, as if it were something that could not be lived, and people end up living more intensely”, he says.

For the specialist, this is a way of gaining access to sexual desires that, until then, were dormant or even unknown. In this sense, the practice helps the individual to let go of the stereotypes related to the sexual act. It is, therefore, a simple form of body self-knowledge.

Contrary to popular belief, erotic stimuli do not only work for those who are alone and want to discover themselves and have more pleasure. Movies and books can often be a light at the end of the tunnel for couples who want, but don’t know how, to spice up their relationship.

It's never too late to get to know yourself and invest in your own sexual pleasure - iStock - iStock

It’s never too late to get to know yourself and invest in your own sexual pleasure.

Image: iStock

They make people bet on the unusual to spice up their sex life. “It’s important to talk more about it, because still very little is said and even less is done. And in addition to the practice helping to get to know one’s own body, investing in erotic content takes the focus away from daily stress. and stress pass, but it is as if there were a displacement of emotions to live that good moment”, says Josefa Ferreira, psychologist at the clinic Holistic.

‘Why doesn’t it work for me?’

In addition to embarrassment, the lack of adequate concentration of sex hormones can also cause erotic stimuli not to function normally. For women, it is a lack of estrogen (female sex hormone), and for men, a deficit of testosterone (male sex hormone).

This is because these hormonal deficiencies negatively interfere with sexual desire, regardless of stimuli. They can compromise the entire process that leads to desire and pleasure or, depending on the degree of hormone deficit, even inhibit them completely.

“For the desire and the act itself to happen, it is necessary that neurotransmitters and hormones are in the circulation in sufficient quantity. says Carmita Abdo.

The teacher also recalls that estrogen deficiency favors the appearance of depression, which is directly related to the lack of sexual desire. “Physiologically, women have less circulating estrogens in some periods of their lives, such as in the premenstrual phase. And if this woman has a tendency to develop depression, that is when the disease can set in, for predisposed women” , comments the specialist, noting that depression affects many aspects of life, not just sex.

Sources: André L. SouzaPhD in cognitive psychology and neuroscience from the University of Texas (USA); Carmita Abdoprofessor at FMUSP (School of Medicine at the University of São Paulo), coordinator of ProSex (Program of Studies in Sexuality at USP) and member of the national commission specialized in sexology at Febrasgo (Brazilian Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics Associations); Josefa Ferreirapsychologist and psychoanalyst at the Holiste Psiquiatria clinic (BA); Renata Toscanopsychologist and professor at the Postgraduate Program in Cognitive Psychology at UFPE (Federal University of Pernambuco).

USP conducts research on sexual behavior

In order to understand sexual behavior in different regions of the world, the IPq (Institute of Psychiatry) of the Hospital das Clínicas of the FMUSP (Faculty of Medicine of the USP), together with 45 other countries, is carrying out a large study on the subject. The idea is to examine different sexual behaviors, including positive aspects, such as sexual satisfaction and desire, and negative aspects, such as risks and problems with sexual functioning.

One of the questionnaires is now available and can be completed until the end of March 2022 — anyone aged 18 and over can participate: click here to complete the questionnaire.

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