Desire in Slow Motion

This video shows what happens inside a (straight) man’s brain in the first fraction of a second that he looks at a picture of a sexually desirable woman. There’s a lot going on in there–not just the flare-up of some primordial reptile brain. In my latest column for Discover, I take a look at the history of neuroscience’s exploration of desire, from the earliest studies on tumors that triggered orgasms to the latest in neuroimaging. Check it out.

[Video courtesy of Stephanie Ortigue of Syracuse University]

Your Brain on Sex from DISCOVERmagazine.com on Vimeo.

0 thoughts on “Desire in Slow Motion

  1. “…[A] decision emerged less than 0.2 second after a picture was viewed.” [But] “…subjects needed about 0.4 second to become aware of whether a person looked desirable or not and press a button.”

    These two statements suggest that the response has been conditioned to occur. If the response is sexually dimorphic the stimulus that conditions it must be sexually dimorphic and be processed by a sexually dimorphic sensory system. Predictably, women would respond somewhat differently. Has anyone checked? Sexual dimorphism in the mammalian olfactory system is one means by which the decision, a subsequent conscious act, and awareness can be linked. I don’t know of any sexual dimorphism in the visual system that provides the required gene-cell-tissue-organ-organ system link from the stimulus to the choice and the behavior.

    It would be interesting to see what might happen when an olfactory stimulus is paired with the picture presentation in men and in women.

  2. Interesting, but it’s hard to tell what desire looks like when there’s nothing to compare it against. Wouldn’t you see some of this activity when the subject is looking at an average-looking woman, or a man?

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