• Vaginal Blood Flow;
  • Laser Doppler;
  • Photoplethysmography;
  • Partner Preference;
  • Apomorphine;
  • Melanotan II


Purpose.  This study investigated slow oscillatory rhythms in vaginal blood flow as a physiological marker of female sexual arousal in rodents, human healthy volunteers, and women with female sexual arousal disorder (FSAD).

Materials and Methods.  Vaginal blood flow was measured in urethane-anesthetized rodents using laser Doppler flowmetry, while in humans, vaginal photoplethysmography was used. Acquired data were filtered for frequency analysis in the range of 0.013–2.5 Hz in rodents and 0.01–0.5 Hz in humans. Rodents were assessed for changes in a high frequency range (HF = 0.6–2.5 Hz), and a low frequency range (LF = 0.013–0.6 Hz). Human data were assessed for total spectral power in the entire frequency range.

Results.  During naturally induced arousal (exposure to male), oscillatory rhythms in vaginal blood flow from rodents demonstrated an increase in the ratio of LF oscillations to HF oscillations (LF/HF ratio). Drugs known to induce sexual arousal (apomorphine and melanotan II) were tested in anesthetized rodents. Both compounds induced an increase in the LF/HF ratio. In humans, visual sexual stimulation induced an increase in the total power of slow oscillatory activity in vaginal blood flow in healthy human volunteers. No such increase was observed in women with FSAD.

Conclusions.  This study demonstrated that slow oscillations in vaginal blood flow are correlated with subjective physiological arousal and display diminished responsiveness in women with FSAD. Slow oscillations in vaginal blood flow are entirely independent of vaginal vasocongestion as women with FSAD demonstrated a normal vasocongestion response to visual sexual stimulation. In conditions where rodents would be expected to be sexually aroused, slow oscillations in vaginal blood flow showed a shift from HFs to LFs. This technique will greatly enhance the investigation of female sexual function both clinically and preclinically. Kelly KA, Richards N, Sultana S, Sudworth M, Dawkins T, Hawcock AB, Buchanon T, Casey JH, and Wayman C. I. Slow oscillations in vaginal blood flow: Alterations during sexual arousal in rodents and humans. J Sex Med 2010;7:1074–1087.