Thursday, November 08, 2012

Alpha Circuitry.

A while ago I put up a series of posts on the subject of female mate selection based upon my clinical and real life observations. It was my contention that in order for attraction to develop a man must stimulate certain "receptors" in a woman's brain in order to elicit reciprocal attraction. Now a "receptor" was a mental construct of mine meant to have some sort of analogy with a neuro-biological mechanism of the mind. To recap, I posited the existence of an alpha receptor--that is a mechanism which responds to stimuli signifying male sexuality, and beta receptor which responds to friendship and commitment like stimuli. It appears that science now has the data to back me up and analogous neuro-biological "circuity" actually exists in female brains.

From, Correlation of Insula Activation and Self-Reported Quality of Orgasm in Women; the authors, after analysing functional MRI data, conclude:
Neuroimaging data expanded these behavioral results by demonstrating the involvement of a specific left-lateralized insula focus of neural activity correlating with orgasm scores, irrespective of dimension (frequency, ease, satisfaction). In contrast, intensity of being in love was correlated with a network involving the angular gyrus.

These findings strongly suggest that intimate and sexual relationships are sustained by partly different mechanisms, even if they share some emotional-related mechanisms  [Ed]. The critical correlation between self-reports of orgasm quality and activation of the left anterior insula, a part of the partner-related neural network known to play a pivotal role in somatic processes, suggests the importance of somatic information in the integration of sexual experience. On the other hand, the correlation between activation of the angular gyrus and love intensity reinforces the assumption that the representation of love calls for higher order cognitive levels, such as those related to the generation of abstract concepts.
It would appear that when it comes to neural networks there appears a sexual network and a romantic network. But here is the real kicker from the study;

However, no relationship was found between intensity of love and partnered orgasm frequency.

What about the flowers, the roses, the dinners??

Clearly then, if romantic love does not necessarily fuel the sexual fire what does? Another study, however, did find something which modulated women's orgasm frequency. From, Men's masculinity and attractiveness predict their female partners' reported orgasm frequency and timing. The authors conclude:
We found that women reported more frequent and earlier-timed orgasms when mated to masculine and dominant men—those with high scores on a principal component characterized by high objectively-measured facial masculinity, observer-rated facial masculinity, partner-rated masculinity, and partner-rated dominance.
This was an interesting study since it demonstrated that orgasm frequency was contingent upon a male possessing objectively ascertainable characteristics. The relationship quality was an uncorrelated variable.

This fascinating study (abstract only) was able to decouple women's assessment of male facial attractiveness into sexual and non-sexual assessments (two separate circuits):
In the present study, while nonsexual judgments best explained facial attraction in whole-face images, a reversal occurred for split-face images such that sexual judgments best explained facial attraction, but only for mate-relevant faces (i.e., other-sex). These findings indicate that disrupting holistic processing can decouple sexual from nonsexual judgments of facial attraction, thereby establishing the presence of a dual-process.
And this study (abstract only) demonstrated that sexual arousal seems to activated by different set of of neurotransmitters when compared to romantic love:
The sexual arousal responses of women in the Lust group, but not in the Romantic group, were positively and significantly associated with elevated NE and DA. It is feasible that, when women are seeking a partner (Lust), NE and DA may facilitate attention toward sexually relevant stimuli
All in all, the research seems to point towards the existence of two separate neurological circuits. An alpha network; which is concerned with sexual desire, the activation of which is contingent upon men having certain objectively determined characteristics, and and a beta circuit concerned with asexual aspects of male/ female relationships.


M. said...

Well, this is just interesting. Any evidence this circuitry is linked specifically to looks and behavior, or just behavior?

M. said...

Never mind, I didn't read the original post carefully enough.

Rum said...

If women possessed self awareness this study would have never needed to have been done.

Johnycomelately said...

Tie the above study with this study;

Basically religion turns you into a beta, so eschew God, act like a jerk and voila your in with the chicks.

David Foster said...

"left anterior insula, a part of the partner-related neural network known to play a pivotal role in somatic processes, suggests the importance of somatic information in the integration of sexual experience. On the other hand, the correlation between activation of the angular gyrus and love intensity"

So did they look at equivalent networks in the male brain?

Rum said...

Ask a man, "What turns you on sexually" and you would get an honest, rather accurate and comprehensive answer. Whatever networks exist, their workings are, unlike in women, not hidden from conscious awareness.
If women were able to accurately describe what it is that turns them on sexually mothers and sisters of doomed beta men would have been helped by useful advice, Instead, that never happens. Thus, they are either incapable of accurate self knowledge of their sexuality or they are just mindlessly sadistic towards their own male kin.

Anonymous said...

The "men's masculinity and attractiveness predicts female orgasm" study looks interesting, for those who don't mind trying to decipher the statistics. One thing looks odd: the average % female orgasm during intercourse is 52%, I think they're saying.

Isn't this very high? I thought it was known that only a small % of women could orgasm during intercourse, most able during foreplay, and a significant % that couldn't get there at all.

David Foster said...

The neorotransmitter study is interesting (don't think I'd ever even heard of norepinephrine before), but the sample sizes seem awfully small.

The masculinity/attractiveness seems to be saying that masculinity is correlated with the "early" result but negatively with the "late" result, while attractiveness is the other way around! (I say "seems," because turning the raw data into factor loadings looks to me like it sort of messes up the clarity of the results. If you've got 20 different items being measured it probably makes sense to reduce it to a few common factors, if you can, but why in the world would someone do this with only 6 items?_

The Social Pathologist said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Social Pathologist said...


The neurotransmitter study is the weakest one, but its important in that it suggests that the sexual network may be differentiated both in structure and by neurotransmitter type.


norepinepherine = noradrenaline

Isn't this very high?

Historical orgasm rates may not be applicable today. The average age of the female participants in the study was 20ish. If we assume that the erotic plasticity hypothesis is correct, then we would expect women who are raised in a more permissive sexual environments will be much freer with regard to their sexuality, including the ability to orgasm.

This paper would seem to support this hypothesis.

Vaginismus and Dyspareunia: Relationship with General and
Sex-Related Moral Standards

I think Charmaine Borg's research on disgust, culture and sexual dysfunction has profound implications with regard to traditional western view on sexuality. Quite simply, it pushed too hard against the flesh, hence the liberal rebound. said...

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