Deep Brain Stimulation for Pleasure

Neuroscience and Neurology CategoryScientists out of Oxford University have developed a deep brain stimulation protocol for the orbitofrontal cortex of the brain, a small center behind the eyes which is believed to have a role in our perception of pleasure associated with food and sex. Dr. Tipu Aziz, a professor of neurosurgery at Oxford remarks, “A few years ago, a scientist implanted such a device into the brain of a woman with a low sex drive and turned her into a very sexually active woman. She didn’t like the sudden change, so the wiring in her head was removed.” The doctor further comments that a “sex chip” utilizing this technology could be available within 10 years.

PleasureDeep brain stimulation is an area of ongoing research whereby electrodes are surgically inserted into areas of the brain and a pacemaker is pulsed to activate that area. Promising developments have been made for conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, Tourette’s Syndrome, phantom limb pain, or refractory major depression utilizing deep brain stimulation. In each of these conditions, deficiencies of a very small control region of the brain are linked to the associated symptoms, which is ideal for this type of modality. In the case of libido or pleasure, scientists have only recently begun to map out brain processes for controls. The orbitofrontal cortex in particular has come under significant scrutiny, as previously very little was known about its function. Dr. Morten Kringelbach, an Oxford psychiatrist, has a small body of research that is beginning to shed light on this area of the brain, and its links to our concepts of pleasure and reward.

With so much attention paid to male erectile dysfunction due to Viagra and its predecessors, one would think that female sexual dysfunction would also be studied aggressively. Unfortunately, research and answers have proven difficult to obtain, as sexual arousal appears to be much more multifactoral in females than males. The deep brain stimulation studies serve to offer some insight into this complicated problem, and should trigger further investigation into neural controls for sexual response. Hopefully, the research being carried out at Oxford will help to bring some novel therapies to the millions of women who struggle daily with sexual dysfunction.


Morten L. Kringelbach (2005). The human orbitofrontal cortex: linking reward to hedonic experience Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 6 (9), 691-702 DOI: 10.1038/nrn1747

Kent C. Berridge, Morten L. Kringelbach (2008). Affective neuroscience of pleasure: reward in humans and animals Psychopharmacology, 199 (3), 457-480 DOI: 10.1007/s00213-008-1099-6

  • Niall

    As often happens with scientific discoveries they may seem neutral or even beneficial at first. I am interested as to what will happen when more nefarious people get hold of such machines. (Pleasure giving) Drugs currently used mimic/ increase release/ stop reuptake of neurotransmitters – what happen when this is used to tap into the pure pleasure centres? I’m not making a judgement on that, it could change lots of things some of it for the better, just curious.

  • clin nixon

    hello peeps?. my name is colin?,
    &in2005,i suffered a carotid artiory dissection leaveing me a hemapliegic?. my question is this,.why is nothing bieeng done to( help) people that have suffered strokes,? using (d,b,stimulation,in order to help recover spercific parts of memory & function/movement.?. please could annyone advise me on this condition?. yours, colin.?.

  • Sajid Surve, D.O.


    Thank you for your question. A lot of research is being carried out regarding patients with stroke, however deep brain stimulation is not currently in the works to my knowledge. That technology is really applicable when a tiny area of the brain with a discrete function gets compromised. In the case of stroke, the majority of time it is a significantly larger area of the brain which gets affected, making it impossible to stimulate all of that tissue. That being said, some other technologies are on the horizon for hemiplegia. One example would be neuromotor prostheses, which I have covered in a previous article. Hope that helps!

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  • Aaron

    Hi, this is great great news!! I currently suffer from severe loss of libido and its basically psychological arousal. I have no problem getting an erection but my issue is arousal and excitability. Now to me this research sounds like a massive breakthrough! Are you guys doing any research for male loss of libido too because many people loose their sex drive and its crippling and horrible. Any studies or clinical trials which are forthcoming … I’d love to know about!

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Sajid Surve, DO

Sajid Surve, DO, is a physiatrist, acupuncturist, and osteopath who specializes in musculoskeletal medicine and integrative medicine.

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