Injections of sex-related hormone increase arousal in the brain

Affecting your brain

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In the mood? Feeling sexy and romantic has been linked to a hormone named kisspeptin. Researchers hope the chemical may help treat people with some sexual problems.

Kisspeptin occurs naturally in the body, where it stimulates the release of other signalling chemicals that have been linked to reproduction. Now a study of 29 heterosexual young men has found that injections of the hormone enhance the brain’s response to sexual and romantic pictures of couples.

After injection, MRI scans showed increased activity in the regions of the brain that are usually stimulated by sexual arousal and romance. But this activity was only prompted by arousing pictures – non-sexy images did not have the same effect.

“Our findings indicate that kisspeptin could play a role in stimulating some of the emotions and responses that lead to sex and reproduction,” says Waljit Dhillo, at Imperial College London. “Ultimately, we are keen to look into whether kisspeptin could be an effective treatment for psychosexual disorders.”

The team now plans to study the effects of the hormone in a larger group of people, including women as well as men.

Journal reference: Journal of Clinical Investigation

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