NCBI ROFL: Would Spock be turned on by porn?

By ncbi rofl | February 3, 2011 7:00 pm

Focusing “hot” or focusing “cool”: attentional mechanisms in sexual arousal in men and women.

“Knowledge about the regulation of sexual emotion may add to the understanding of sexual problems such as diminished sexual desire and hypersexuality. Aim.  To investigate the regulation of sexual arousal by means of attentional focus in healthy sexually functional men and women. Method.  Using a habituation design with attentional strategies, it was investigated whether a focus on hot, emotional information of sexual stimuli would sustain or amplify sexual responses, whereas a focus on cool, cognitive information would weaken sexual responses. Main Outcome Measures.  Genital response (in women measured by vaginal photoplethysmography assessing vaginal pulse amplitude, and in men measured by mechanical penile strain gauge assessing penile circumference) and subjective report of sexual arousal and absorption. Results.  Attenuation of sexual feelings by attentional focus was observed, with stronger sexual feelings under the hot focus condition than under the cool focus condition. Also, sexual feelings diminished during repeated erotic stimulation, and increased with the introduction of novel stimulation, indicating habituation and novelty effects. Contrary to the expectations, the hot attentional focus did not preclude habituation of sexual arousal. Conclusions.  Attentional focus has substantial regulatory effects on subjective sexual arousal. Taking a participant and emotion-oriented focus rather than a spectator and stimulus-oriented focus while viewing erotic stimuli, enhances feelings of sexual arousal. Implications for the treatment of hypoactive sexual desire, sexual arousal disorder, and hypersexuality are discussed, as well as future directions for studying regulation of sexual emotion.

Bonus quote from the Materials and Methods:

“In the hot attentional focus condition participants received the following instruction: ‘During film viewing, identify as much as possible with the male or female actor (men were asked to identify with the male actor and female participants with the female actor) and imagine that you are engaged in the sexual activities depicted in the film. Imagine everything you would see, hear or feel, and concentrate on the bodily sensations you would feel such as genital sensations, changes in heartbeat, or tingles in your body. Imagine the feelings you would experience such as sexual arousal, joy, horniness, or excitement. In short, imagine yourself in the situation as much as possible and try to be completely absorbed’. In the cool attentional focus condition the instruction was: ‘During film viewing, remind yourself that you are simply watching a film segment depicting actors playing a role, and imagine that you are the director of the film. Focus on the physical characteristics of the setting like the lightning and colour of the film set. Concentrate on the physical characteristics of the actors, their positions, and the quality of the acting. In short, take in the characteristics of the film set as much as possible and try to study each detail’.”

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NCBI ROFL is the brainchild of two Molecular and Cell Biology graduate students at UC Berkeley and features real research articles from the PubMed database (which is housed by the National Center for Biotechnology information, aka NCBI) that they find amusing (ROFL is a commonly-used internet acronym for "rolling on the floor, laughing"). Follow us on twitter: @ncbirofl

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