It was a legendary question that Sally put to Harry way back when: “How do you know that they're really … ?” (Stumped? Video after the jump will explain).
You don't really know. But one man knows. He's the Neil Armstrong of the big O, having gone where every man thought he has gone before, but where none has really known for sure: Barry R. Komisaruk, professor of radiology at Rutgers University, and one of the first people to map the female orgasm via MRI machine.
Komisaruk will present video of his findings in Southern California next week, at the Neuroscience 2010 meeting in San Diego.
(Note to self: Must buy MRI machine).
(Other note to self: How does he really, really know: Maybe the female subjects were thinking about chocolate. After all, how sexy can an MRI machine be? It's not the Grotto at the Playboy Mansion, that's for sure).
Komisaruk and colleague Beverly Whipple found that a woman's brain can light up like a Christmas tree — during … — and that the feelings can be so intense as to block out pain (PDF).
We found to our surprise that each of the parameters measured in a counterbalanced design (i.e., heart rate, blood pressure, pupil dilatation, and pain threshold) approximately doubled during orgasm … The women described the imagery they experienced during the thought-induced orgasms variously: in some cases, erotic; others, pastoral; and still others, abstract …
Alas, guys, the big O remains a mystery, even if Dr. Feelgood, er, Professor Komisaruk, has isolated the scientific visuals. The professors, in fact, end their paper with a question;
If orgasm is a phenomenon of the brain that is somehow more than the sum of the reafferent sensory activity generated from the smooth and striated muscles, we are again led to ask the linked questions: Which neurons generate our experience of pleasure and how do they do so?
Only Sally truly knows.