A new study found that the brain region involved with genital touch varies among women and the region is thicker in participants who engaged more regularly in sexual intercourse.

A new study has identified the precise brain location(s) of women’s somatic sensations involved with genital touch. The study also reported, for the first time, that frequent intercourse was correlated with a thicker brain region.

The primary somatosensory cortex (S1) is a part of the brain responsible for processing somatic sensations. These sensations involve touch, proprioception (the position of the body in space), nociception (pain), and temperature, and is mediated through the presence of cellular receptors located throughout the body.

However, so far, the precise location of women’s genital sensation in the somatosensory cortex (also called representation field) remains poorly understood.

To address this issue, researchers from Universitätsmedizin Berlin, used a Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to measure the brain’s response to a membrane vibrating over the clitoral region of 20 female participants. This approach allowed researchers to map the exact location of the female genital representation field in the brain.

Two key findings were that while the somatosensory cortex is indeed involved with sexual sensation in women, the precise location within the cortex changes from women to women. Also, the study found that the thickness of the genital field (the region of the brain linked to sensation) varied with the frequency of reported sexual intercourse. Women who reported more frequent sexual intercourse over the previous 12 months had a thicker genital field.

The results of this study have important implications for future studies seeking to better understand the link between sexual sensation and brain function, which may bear relevance for future treatments of patients with adverse sexual experiences or pathologies.

“Our study represents a significant methodological advance by individually mapping genital fields for structural analyses. On a secondary level, our results suggest that any study investigating changes in the human genital field must map the field individually to achieve sufficient precision,” the authors wrote in their report.

“Our results pave the way for future research into the plasticity of the human genital cortex as a function of normal or adverse experience as well as changes in pathological conditions, i.e. sexual dysfunction, sexual deviation or sexual risk-taking behaviour,” the authors wrote.