The Frontal Cortex

The Orgasmatron

Woody Allen was a prescient man. Dr. Stuart Meloy has created a device that seems to help women with sexual problems regain their ability to have an orgasm:

The experimental implant — now trademarked by Meloy as the Orgasmatron after the orgasm-inducing cylinder in Woody Allen’s 1973 movie “Sleeper” — rests on the skin just above the belt line. Two electrodes snake into the space between the vertebrae and the spinal cord. A video-game-like remote control allows women (or their partners) to turn electrical pulses on and off and fiddle with timing and intensity.

Electrodes in the right place (determined partly by trial and error) seem to interact with various nerve networks, Meloy says, including nerves from the pelvis that enter the spinal highway near the tailbone. Stimulating those nerves shoots pleasure signals straight up to the part of the brain that processes information coming from the genitalia.

Women who have used the device say they feel as if their clitoris and vagina are actually being stimulated, to quite realistic effect. (“One woman asked me, ‘Would it be considered adultery if I gave the remote control to someone other than my husband?’ ” Meloy says.)

Some volunteers also report fleeting episodes of clenched foot muscles, Meloy says, probably a result of electrical pulses leaving the spine and stimulating nearby motor nerves. (He wonders if the phenomenon might somehow be related to a common orgasm description: “My toes curled.”)

Couldn’t the clenched feet also be due to the fact that the sensory map for the genitalia are located right next to the map of the toes in the somatosensory cortex? (I always assumed, probably in error, that this is why people have foot fetishes: some nerves in their somatosensory cortex got tangled.)

Comments

  1. #1 Crusty Dem
    February 13, 2008

    I will not take home my WPI A360 stimulus isolation units and some EMG electrodes.
    I will not take home my WPI A360 stimulus isolation units and some EMG electrodes.
    I will not take home my WPI A360 stimulus isolation units and some EMG electrodes.
    I will not take home my WPI A360 stimulus isolation units and some EMG electrodes.
    I will not take home my WPI A360 stimulus isolation units and some EMG electrodes.

    If I say it enough times, maybe I’ll even begin to believe it myself. Now if I’d just studied the sacral spinal cord a little better back in neuroanatomy, oh well, no pain, no gain…

  2. #2 Dr X
    February 13, 2008

    I was going to say something about the expression, “knocking someone’s socks off.”

    I guess I just did.

  3. #3 Jonathan Vos Post
    February 14, 2008

    Dr X compressed:

    SEX = SOX!

  4. #4 Max
    February 15, 2008

    I’ve heard that proximity of those areas in the brain is responsible for the frequency of foot fetishes, but I thought that it was due to spreading activation. I’ve also heard that it’s due to signals from the nerves (which, as indicated by the story, travel up the spine very close to each other) getting “crossed.”

  5. #5 scottumagnus
    February 16, 2008

    implantable electrodes in the dorsal spine with variable directed stimuli are now used by pain management physicians for many chronic pain syndromes,such as chronic regional pain. Anecdotal reference from associates indicate that some patients find that in the mapping of the cord for the best stimulus extreme pleasure is stimulated. Perhaps some of the success of this procedure is that it serendipitously reinvigorates the pleasure and counteracts the loss of hedonism in chronic pain.

  6. #6 TomK
    February 19, 2008

    People have different kinds of foot fetishes. The subtype of foot fetishist who likes to have his own feet played with might be due to the somatosensory cortex, but other foot fetishes, like getting off on stinky feet or stomping on people or boots, will more likely due to other mechanisms (like an early imprinting experience or repeated conditioning).

    If a person gets off with a combination of their own genitals and their partners feet, would you try to explain that in terms of the interaction mirror neurons and the somatosensory cortex?

    Why tangled? If the deviation encourages a more diverse array of mating behaviors and partner choices, it’s probably great for the species. Do lefties have tangled brains?

  7. #7 Charles
    February 19, 2008

    Wouldn’t it just make sense for men to stop watching porn for sex tips, and start paying attention to their partners?

  8. #8 Orin
    February 19, 2008

    Actually, I’ve read that that’s EXACTLY why people have foot fetishes, especially men. I think I can find a link…

    In Joann Ellison Rodgers “History of Sex,” page 125:

    “Recall that foot fetishes, almost exclusively a male sexual behavior, may result from brain maps formed before birth by the juxtaposition of a fetus’s feet and penis in the womb.”

    She makes the same analogy between nipples and ears in women. All more work for the Orgasmatron installers, I would predict.

  9. #9 Anders Sandberg
    February 20, 2008

    There is a hilarious rendition of “sex” this way in the Aeon Flux episode “Thanatophobia” (as well as an surreal spinal prosthetic).

  10. #10 what
    February 20, 2008

    it’s sort of unfortunate that men need a machine to pleasure their partners. it’s like this society is becoming as “hands-off” (pun intended) as it possibly can.

    I myself prefer the old fashioned way, thanks.

  11. #11 Gabe
    March 17, 2008

    There’s a side note from V. S. Ramachandran, in his book Phantoms in the Brain, that foot fetishes come from the foot brain-mapping area being so close to the genital brain-mapping area. Has to be some validity to it…

    Incidentally, it’s is an amazing book about phantom limb experiences…

  12. #12 tj2579
    August 6, 2010

    I had a SCS inserted in June of 2009 for chronic back pain. Shortly afterward my ability to achieve orgasm disappeared completely. I now wonder if the two are related.

  13. #13 J. Whtny
    June 10, 2011

    In the somatosensory cortex the area which proccess genitalia is directly adjecent to the area responsible for the feet. It is common for sensation in one area to “bleed over” into the other. I’m surprised Dr. Meloy wouldn’t know this.

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