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J Abnorm Psychol. 1996 Nov;105(4):582-91.

Differential effects of sympathetic activation on sexual arousal in sexually dysfunctional and functional women.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle 98105, USA.


The effects of sympathetic nervous system (SNS) activation, induced via acute exercise, on sexual arousal in women was studied. In 2 experimental sessions, 36 women viewed a neutral film followed by an erotic film. In 1 session, the women were exposed to 20 min of intense exercise before viewing the films. Twelve women were sexually functional, 12 experienced significant impairments in sexual desire, and 12 experienced primary or secondary anorgasmia. Acute exercise significantly increased vaginal pulse amplitude (VPA) and vaginal blood volume (VBV) responses to an erotic film among sexually functional women and those with low sexual desire. Among anorgasmic women, exercise significantly decreased VPA but had no effect on VBV responses to an erotic film. Acute exercise had no significant effect on the women's perceptions of sexual arousal. Results suggest that increased SNS arousal may affect physiological sexual responding in women.

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