The Brain

Scientists Discover Injection Of Hormone Could Act As Viagra For The Brain

Scientists have discovered that a hormone that surges during puberty and triggers sexual arousal behaviors in the brain could be key to treating psychological sexual issues in the form of a pill that could act as a Viagra for the brain.

The naturally occurring, and rather fittingly named, kisspeptin is a key reproductive hormone that stimulates the release of other hormones in the brain that are linked with making us feel romantic, sexy, and turned on. It kicks in at the start of puberty and is associated with younger people’s higher sex drive.

Researchers at Imperial College London discovered that an injection of kisspeptin enhances activity in the brain regions associated with both sexual arousal and romantic love. Now, they are keen to explore whether this can be used to treat psychosexual issues – those that are psychological, not physical, in origin – and related problems with conceiving a child. Their study is published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation. 

“Most of the research and treatment methods for infertility to date have focussed on the biological factors that may make it difficult for a couple to conceive naturally,” explained Professor Waljit Dhillo, who led the research, in a statement. “These, of course, play a huge part in reproduction, but the role that the brain and emotional processing play in this process is also very important, and only partially understood.”

The study involved 29 healthy heterosexual men who were given either an injection of kisspeptin or a placebo. They were then shown images of sexual and non-sexual romantic couples while having their brains scanned by an MRI so the researchers could monitor their response.

They found that those who has been injected with kisspeptin showed enhanced activity in structures of the brain typically activated by sexual arousal and romance. The team thinks this demonstrates kisspeptin boosts behavioral circuits associated with sex and love in the brain and want to explore this further with a larger study that includes women. 

It is thought that one in 10 men in the UK suffers from sexual problems, including a lack of libido caused by relationship issues, stress, and anxiety. The researchers believe that in the future the hormone could be administered in pill form, and that it could help many people with psychosexual issues, those who are struggling to conceive naturally, partners who need to reignite the spark in their relationship, and even help treat depression.   

According to the Telegraph, when asked whether kisspeptin could be used as “mental Viagra”, Professor Dhillo agreed, saying: “Yes, exactly like that.”

“Ultimately, we are keen to look into whether kisspeptin could be an effective treatment for psychosexual disorders, and potentially help countless couples who struggle to conceive,” he concluded. 

 

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