Your brain during orgasm – and how it relates to performance anxiety, by Max Plenke

Article by Max Plenke, featured in .Mic

“You are your own worst enemy in the bedroom. (…)  You can’t shut off a certain part of your brain. (…)

To understand performance anxiety, you first have to understand what orgasms do to the body — and why reaching them is so easy when we’re alone, but often harder with a partner.

When you orgasm, it takes near-total control of your brain and nervous system (…) from head to toe.

(…) activation in the nucleus accumbens, the pleasure center of the brain, [and] the hypothalamus, which excretes oxytocin,(…) in the cerebellum, which is involved in muscle tension; we see activation in the insular and cingulate cortex, which are interesting because those same areas react to pain, so it may be inhibiting pain in its processes; we see activation in the amygdala, which increases heart rate and blood pressure and sweating. They’re all activated, and they’re all activated maximally.”

Clearly, your brain has a lot to say about how you experience an orgasm — but it’s also the gatekeeper. The two most important players are  (…)

the orbitofrontal cortex, located right above and behind your eyes is what’s activated when you’re aroused.

And the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, located directly above the former and roughly behind the hairline is what makes you not act on it in the middle of Trader Joe’s.

Most of the time, you need that filter. It’s what keeps you doing socially appropriate things even when you’re aroused, and makes you conscious of yourself and your body. (…) “And if you keep your dorsolateral prefrontal cortex turned on, it’ll suppress that and you won’t be able to even get erect or excited or whatever.”

(…) When you’re touching yourself, you don’t have to turn off those frontal cortex pieces because you still need them to focus on what you’re doing (…) You have a focal point that is serving your desires. When you rely on another person for stimulation, that focal point doesn’t exist. Your mind wanders. And in anxious people, it doesn’t wander to fantasy, it wanders to self-consciousness, or to the day you had. That dorsolateral prefrontal cortex is sabotaging your groove.

(…)  Is there a difference between masturbation and partner orgasm? It’s likely — but the science is still catching up (…)  they’re hard to tell apart when shown on an MRI.

(…) so far our methodology is not subtle enough to pick up those differences in brain activity. Brain imaging isn’t even in its embryonic stage yet. The functional MRI was only developed 25 years ago.”

(…) One way to get better at clearing your mind is to get into meditation that focuses on quieting your thoughts and train your brain to let go and let your thinking flow freely. You can’t consciously tell yourself to decrease your dorsolateral prefrontal cortex activation, but you can figure out what your “flow states” are. It might be reading, biking, climbing or running, where you lose that sense of self and time and place. That’s the sweet spot. Figure out how to get yourself there, and stay there more often.

(…) “You want to get in that state where you lose yourself,” Berlin said. “You’re getting your mind used to letting go, and it will have carry-over effect in the bedroom.”

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