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Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2000 Feb;25(2):187-99.

Neuroendocrine response to film-induced sexual arousal in men and women.

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  • 1School of Psychology, University of New England, Armidale, Australia.


The psychoneuroendocrine responses to sexual arousal have not been clearly established in humans. However, we have demonstrated previously that masturbation-induced orgasm stimulates cardiovascular activity and induces increases in catecholamines and prolactin in blood of both males and females. We presently investigated the role of orgasm in producing these effects. Therefore, in this study parallel analysis of prolactin, adrenaline, noradrenaline, and cortisol concentrations, together with cardiovascular variables of systolic/diastolic blood pressure and heart rate were undertaken during film-induced sexual arousal in nine healthy adult men and nine healthy adult women. Blood was drawn continuously via an indwelling cannula and connected tubing system passed through a mini-pump. In parallel, the cardiovascular parameters were recorded continuously via a computerised finger-cuff sensor. Subjective sexual arousal increased significantly in both men and women during the erotic film, with sexual arousal eliciting an increase in blood pressure in both males and females, and plasma noradrenaline in females only. In contrast, adrenaline, cortisol and prolactin levels were unaffected by sexual arousal. These data further consolidate the role of sympathetic activation in sexual arousal processes. Furthermore, they demonstrate that increases in plasma prolactin during sexual stimulation are orgasm-dependent, suggesting that prolactin may regulate a negative-feedback sexual-satiation mechanism.

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