Present address: Department of Radiology, OSF Saint Francis Medical Center, Peoria, IL 61637.
Women's Clitoris, Vagina, and Cervix Mapped on the Sensory Cortex: fMRI Evidence
Article first published online: 28 JUL 2011
© 2011 International Society for Sexual Medicine
The Journal of Sexual Medicine
Volume 8, Issue 10, pages 2822–2830, October 2011
How to Cite
Komisaruk, B. R., Wise, N., Frangos, E., Liu, W.-C., Allen, K. and Brody, S. (2011), Women's Clitoris, Vagina, and Cervix Mapped on the Sensory Cortex: fMRI Evidence. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 8: 2822–2830. doi: 10.1111/j.1743-6109.2011.02388.x
- Issue published online: 3 OCT 2011
- Article first published online: 28 JUL 2011
- Sensory Cortex;
Introduction. The projection of vagina, uterine cervix, and nipple to the sensory cortex in humans has not been reported.
Aims. The aim of this study was to map the sensory cortical fields of the clitoris, vagina, cervix, and nipple, toward an elucidation of the neural systems underlying sexual response.
Methods. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), we mapped sensory cortical responses to clitoral, vaginal, cervical, and nipple self-stimulation. For points of reference on the homunculus, we also mapped responses to the thumb and great toe (hallux) stimulation.
Main Outcome Measures. The main outcome measures used for this study were the fMRI of brain regions activated by the various sensory stimuli.
Results. Clitoral, vaginal, and cervical self-stimulation activated differentiable sensory cortical regions, all clustered in the medial cortex (medial paracentral lobule). Nipple self-stimulation activated the genital sensory cortex (as well as the thoracic) region of the homuncular map.
Conclusion. The genital sensory cortex, identified in the classical Penfield homunculus based on electrical stimulation of the brain only in men, was confirmed for the first time in the literature by the present study in women applying clitoral, vaginal, and cervical self-stimulation, and observing their regional brain responses using fMRI. Vaginal, clitoral, and cervical regions of activation were differentiable, consistent with innervation by different afferent nerves and different behavioral correlates. Activation of the genital sensory cortex by nipple self-stimulation was unexpected, but suggests a neurological basis for women's reports of its erotogenic quality. Komisaruk BR, Wise N, Frangos E, Liu W-C, Allen K, and Brody S. Women's clitoris, vagina and cervix mapped on the sensory cortex: fMRI evidence. J Sex Med 2011;8:2822–2830.