Sex Takes Thought
New Study Suggests Lust Is Just a Part of It
February 13th, 2004
By Louis Wittig :eCureMe Staff Writer
February 12th, 2004 : Physician Reviewed
This Valentine’s Day, raw lust and animal attraction will make millions of couples
around the world start to grope and grab. Or will it? New research has found that the
decision to have sex, usually not thought to have much to do with the brain, takes a
surprising amount of thought.
The revelation comes courtesy of four small Brazilian monkeys known as marmosets and a
group of researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. From a social and
reproductive standpoint, the two groups aren’t that different. Both marmosets and
humans live in family groupings and don’t mate freely.
Researchers exposed the marmosets, all male, to the scent of fertile female marmosets;
the smell acted as a sort of animal kingdom aphrodisiac to get the males into mating mode.
Once they were aroused, the marmosets’ brain functions were examined using
functional magnetic resonance imaging. What they saw wasn’t quite what they
"We were surprised to observe high levels of neural activity in areas of the brain
important for decision-making, as well as in purely sexual arousal areas." Said
Charles T. Snowdon, a University of Wisconsin psychologist and marmoset expert involved
with the project said in a statement. "Lighting up far more brightly than we
expected were areas associated with decision-making and memory, emotional processing
and reward, and cognitive control."
In short, when the monkeys became aroused, they weren’t just running on
hormones - but were, in a way, thinking it over. According to the researchers, this
finding adds weight to the idea that when confronted with a "novel, sexually
attractive and receptive female" males "exhibit highly organized, complex neural
processes" instead of acting on primal urges.
The team also noted that the data gathered from the marmoset study was similar to data
gathered in studies that looked at the brain functioning of humans.
Perhaps, then, as Valentine’s Day roles around - is that sex isn’t so
much in the air (or even in the body), but in the mind.
Contact Louis Wittig at louis@eCureMe.com
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