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Neural Mechanisms of Sexual Behavior

Sexual response involves the entire nervous system:

Central nervous system

Brain and spinal cord

Peripheral nervous system

Cerebrospinal nerves (they go to the spinal cord, transmitting sensory stimuli, and come from the spinal cord transmitting impulses to activate muscles).
Autonomic nervous system (the primary function of which is the regulation and maintenance of the body processes necessary to life, such as heart rate, breathing, digestion, and temperature control).


The brain itself is the coordinating and controlling center, interpreting what sensations are to be perceived as sexual and issuing appropriate "orders" to the rest of the nervous system.

Autonomic nervous system - controls the sexual involuntary responses;
Afferent cerebrospinal nerves -
(those that go to the spinal cord) carry the sensory messages to the brain.
Efferent cerebrospinal nerves - (those that come from the spinal cord) carry commands from the brain to the muscles.
Spinal cord - serves as a great transmission cable.


No specific "sex area" has been located in the human brain, but the parts of the brain thought to be most concerned with sexual response are the hypothalamus and the limbic system.


How the Nervous System Works During Sexual Intercourse ?


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Author: Dr. Silvia Helena Cardoso, PhD. Psychobiologist, master and doctor in Sciences by the University of São Paulo and post doctoral fellowship by the University of California, Los Angeles. Invited Professor and Associate Researcher of the Center for Biomedical Informatics, State University of Campinas (Unicamp), Brazil.

Center for Biomedical Informatics
State University of Campinas, Brazil

Copyright 1997 State University of Campinas