Cosmonauts of Sex

Kayt Sukel was working on a book about the neurobiology of sex when researcher Barry Komisaruk offered her an opportunity to be a guinea pig. Kayt was to have an orgasm in an MRI machine.

Kayt and her mask. (via The Guardian)

Now this is maybe not so exciting as it sounds, at least for the guinea pig. MRIs are noisy and hospitals aren’t all that comfortable, not to mention the techs milling about — which might be a turn-on for some people, I suppose. Did I mention that Kayt had to keep her head perfectly still? A special mesh mask was formed to fit her face and be bolted to the MRI. Kayt hadn’t thought much about her head movement during orgasm before this and decided to practice a bit before the experiment by taping a bell to her forehead so that she’d know if she moved her head.

Kayt is only of several intrepid pioneers who have had their brains scanned during orgasm. Nan Wise had a video of her brain lighting up (and it does light up!) made at Rutgers by Komisaruk. And there were a number of Dutch research subjects in an earlier MRI event. The Dutch scans showed slightly different results than the American tests, possibly because the Dutch women were stimulated by partners rather than masturbating solo.

Kayt's brain scan. "A"= prefrontal cortex, "B"= anterior cingulate cortex. (via New Scientist)

When Kayt volunteered to give an orgasm to science, she was motivated by two goals: first, knowledge and self-discovery; second, to have an interesting story for cocktail parties. She wrote an article for New Scientist to meet the first goal and suddenly found herself the subject of a great deal of interest. The brain scan image with the words “I CAME” under it became an internet meme:

At first, I was pleased with the attention and hoped it would help me sell a few books.  But after a week of being asked what kind of underwear I prefer and whether I’ve ever had a threesome, I started to feel like a high school girl who was rumored to have gotten it on with the entire football team under the bleachers. The orgasm image was driving a lot of talk, but I had no say in just what that talk was.

As a single gal, I’m well-versed with typing names into a search engine field — I consider it simple date fact-checking.  And now, when a date decides to do a little fact-checking of his own, he’ll find himself face to face with my brain at orgasm.

Still, she doesn’t regret the experience which she sums up as, “I came for the science.” Kayt’s book, Dirty Minds, will be out in January.

Komisaruk discusses his work in several videos here.
If you have access to scholarly papers, the Dutch study was printed in the European Journal of Neuroscience.

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2 comments on “Cosmonauts of Sex

  1. nursemyra says:

    Didn’t Mary Roach do this too?

    • mikulpepper says:

      I don’t know if she did an MRI. I do know that she has talked quite a bit about orgasm — including a corpse having one, which, I guess, didn’t show up on a brain scan.

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