New sex devices may excite neural pleasure pathways directly.
The brain is at the center of all of our experiences, not the least of which is sexual pleasure.
Standard devices such as vibrators stimulate reward centers in the brain by exciting nerve endings in soft tissue. However, progress in neurostimulation, a medical technology that directly acts on brain cells, offers a way to bypass this system and create a new generation of sex devices.
Neurostimulation is already a valuable tool
Neurostimulation is already used in a variety of medical settings. For people who suffer from brain disorders, it can greatly improve their quality of life. The first step is to implant electrodes into the brain. These electrodes provide a local electrical current to stimulate certain brain cells, causing them to become active.
In people suffering from Parkinson’s disease, the uncontrolled movements they suffer can become so severe they are disabling. This is due to uncontrolled activity in certain parts of the brain that govern movement. To regulate the firing of these brain cells, scientists apply neurostimulation devices. It has been extremely effective in restoring motor function and improvements can be seen instantly.
Could future sex toys be chips implanted in our brains?
In recent years, there has been talk about neurostimulation being used to heighten sexual pleasure. Dr. Tipu Aziz, a neurosurgeon and researcher at Oxford University, has spoken about this possibility.
Aziz speculates that an improved understanding of pleasure centers in the brain could pave the way for new sexual devices. For example, once we understand how we can generate a sexually pleasurable experience by exciting brain cells, a specially designed implant could create such enhanced feelings of arousal and pleasure.
Similar technology has already been trialled by Dr. Thomas Meloy in 2006, who is affiliated with the Forsyth Medical Center in North Carolina, US. He used what he calls Neurally Augmented Sexual Function (NASF) in female patients who suffered from a lack of sexual pleasure.
NASF is a type of neurostimulation device that excites cells in the spinal cord to achieve arousal and orgasm. Meloy used electrodes implanted in the spinal cords of 11 women. He found that 91% of these patients reported increased feelings of satisfaction and a higher rate of sexual activity.
However, researchers such as Dr. Kringelbach, a neuroscientist at Oxford University, argue that sexual pleasure is more complex than NASF makes it out to be. According to Kringelbach, sexual pleasure isn’t just about exciting parts of the brain. Rather the full experience of sexual pleasure could involve the complex interplay of several factors such as desire, learning, and motivation. A basic implant might not be enough to trigger climax in everyone, he suggests.
The development of an implantable device in the brain for arousal will depend on two factors. First, more research into the function of the brain’s pleasure pathways is needed to identify specific targets for stimulation. Also, a safe and reliable neurostimulation device still needs to be developed. While such a device is only theoretical at present, it is not unlikely that it could become a reality in the near future.
Although a neurostimulation implant that can offer instant pleasure may be desirable, there are potential risks. Replacing its battery is necessary and would require surgery, creating a risk of infection. There is also the possibility of electrodes being inserted incorrectly or dislodging, which could interfere with healthy brain function.
Cutting-edge technology and sex: together at last?
The use of neurostimulation for pleasure would open new vistas in sexual engineering. By directly stimulating the pleasure pathways in the brain, we could see an unimaginable level of hedonic enhancement. This could lead to exciting developments in sexual technology.
The coupling of such a device with sex toys or a sexual partner could create stronger and longer orgasms for both men and women. Even more exciting is how neurostimulation could be paired with developments in virtual reality.
Imagine an experience in which your senses are immersed in a virtual world. This experience could be synchronized with a neural device that excites your pleasure pathways at critical moments. This could result in a more immersive experience for the user. It’s a very exciting prospect.
Neurostimulation could also enhance remote sex. Remote-controlled technology delivers a new kind of internal stimulation, and one that could be remotely controlled the exact same way as smartphone-operated sex devices. Together, these gadgets could push the limits of pleasure.
Our understanding of the brain is developing along with our engineering abilities. It’s becoming possible to design and apply new devices for direct stimulation of the brain. They may not only help people suffering from brain disorders, but also augment how humans experience pleasure.
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