You know what an orgasm is in practice — that total-body, crazy-amazing rush of feel-good sensations. But how does an orgasm actually work?
For starters, your orgasm isn’t actually about the vagina.
“It’s a big brain event,” says Nan Wise, Ph.D., a cognitive neuroscientist and certified sex therapist.
Using fMRI scans taken during orgasm, Wise and her team upended previous beliefs that your brain went blank during your O. Her findings, published last year in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, show that there are actually several brain regions involved in getting you across the finish line.
YOUR ORGASM, MAPPED
There’s a reason your O feels like all-encompassing experience; orgasms are produced by sensations created in almost every area of your brain.
“What we saw from my research was, during the course of stimulation, brain activations increase,” Wise says. “Specifically, orgasm involves a lot of brain regions that contribute to sensation and reward.”
Think of your brain like a light board. When you start to get aroused, all these areas start to glow—when you climax, prepare to grab sunglasses.
“When we say that the most important sex organ is the brain, we’re not kidding,” says Wise.
So if orgasms happens in the brain, could a good fantasy replace your partner (or you vibrator) all together? Technically yes, according to Wise’s research.
In a 2016 study published in Socioaffective Neuroscience and Psychology, Wise and her team found that simply thinking about genital stimulation lights up several areas of the brain involved with orgasm.
“Imagining dildo stimulation generated extensive brain activation in the genital sensory cortex, secondary somatosensory cortex, hippocampus, amygdala, insula, nucleus accumbens, and medial prefrontal cortex,” the authors wrote.
Meanwhile, imagining being touched in a non-sexual situation (like at the gyno) left those areas nearly dark.
Consider this a reason to be more mindful during sex or masturbation, really thinking about each touch and sensation to set off those fireworks in your brain: “It’s this amazing capacity for us to elicit pleasure by just imaging genital stimulation,” says Wise. “When we know this, it’s possible it actually empowers us.”
This article originally appeared on Women's Health US