Remember a few years ago, when there were all these books that tried to explain the history of everything in terms of some seemingly minor subject, like “Cod” or “Salt”? I think it’s time to apply this publishing trope to neuroscience: we need a book on dopamine. That damn neurotransmitter is everywhere. Now it’s even being hailed as an orgasm accelerator:
Abundant evidence points to dopamine as the key neurotransmitter involved in stimulating orgasm in humans. Thus, administration of the dopamine precursor L-dopa, dopaminergic agonists (e.g. apomorphine), dopamine releasers (e.g. amphetamine), or dopamine reuptake inhibitors (e.g. cocaine or bupropion) facilitate the expression of orgasm in men and women. Conversely, administration of antipsychotics impair orgasm, by blocking postsynaptic dopamine receptors (see Komisaruk et al., 2006).
Dopamine-synthesising neurons that originate in the lower brainstem (specifically the ventral tegmental area) are activated during ejaculation in men, as measured by PET imaging (Holstege et al., 2003).
A major projection of the dopamine neuron axon terminals is to the nucleus accumbens of the forebrain. This nucleus is activated during orgasm in women, as measured by fMRI (Komisaruk et al., 2004).
Thus, activation of the dopaminergic system of the brain evidently participates in the production of orgasm in women and men, on the basis of pharmacological functional brain imaging, and neuroanatomical studies. Consistent with this role of dopamine, hypersexuality has been reported in cases of Parkinsonism treated with dopamine precursor or agonist drugs (Bowers et al., 1971). Acute administration of drugs that increase dopaminergic activity only occasionally induces orgasm in the absence of other factors. However, intravenous injection of cocaine, which rapidly increases the release of dopamine at its neuronal terminals in the forebrain, can induce the ‘cocaine rush’ that individuals report as feeling similar to genital orgasm (Miller & Gold, 1988)
Serotonin, by the way, is an orgasm brake, which is why SSRI’s often interfere with sex drive. But perhaps you can compensate for that neurotransmitter decrease with a little novelty (dopamine receptors love kinky new stuff). Here’s the NY Times:
Using laboratory studies, real-world experiments and even brain-scan data, scientists can now offer long-married couples a simple prescription for rekindling the romantic love that brought them together in the first place. The solution? Reinventing date night.
Rather than visiting the same familiar haunts and dining with the same old friends, couples need to tailor their date nights around new and different activities that they both enjoy, says Arthur Aron, a professor of social psychology at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. The goal is to find ways to keep injecting novelty into the relationship. The activity can be as simple as trying a new restaurant or something a little more unusual or thrilling — like taking an art class or going to an amusement park.