‘Mental Viagra’ on horizon as scientists boost lust signals in brain.
M ental Viagra’ is on the horizon after scientists discovered that a hormone which surges during puberty can activate lust signals in the brain.
The hormone kisspeptin essentially switches on the desire to reproduce and is linked to feeling sexy, romantic and turned on. It is thought to be responsible for the voracious sexual appetite of young people.
Now scientists at Imperial College London have found that an injection of kisspeptin can trigger chemicals in the brain which occur when people feel amorous and aroused.
They believe that pills containing the hormone could one day be used to treat sexual problems which are psychological – rather than physical.
It could even help couples recapture the spark in a failing relationship.
A sked whether kisspeptin could be used as ‘mental Viagra’, lead author Professor Waljit Dhillo, said: “Yes, exactly like that.
"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.
“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.”
Kisspeptin is a naturally occurring hormone that stimulates the release of other reproductive hormones inside the body, and kicks off puberty.
I n the study 29 healthy heterosexual young men were given injections of the hormone and asked to look at pictures of sexual and romantic pictures or couples, as well as control images which contained no people.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans showed enhanced activity in regions of the brain linked to sexual arousal and romance. The same effect did not occur when the volunteers viewed the non-sexy images.
The scientists believe that kisspeptin boosts brain circuits associated with sex and love, triggering reward centres and increasing desire.
The study participants using kisspeptin also reported a reduction in negative mood in a post-scan questionnaires so the team is also hoping to investigate whether the hormone could be used for treating depression.
Dr Alexander Comninos, first author of the study from the Department of Medicine at Imperial, said: “Our study shows that kisspeptin boosts sexual and romantic brain activity as well as decreasing negative mood.
“This raises the interesting possibility that kisspeptin may have uses in treating psychosexual disorders and depression which are major health problems which often occur together, but further studies would be needed to investigate this."
I t could also be used to help sexual offenders by allowing them to feel lust without needing such graphic triggers.
“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,” added Prof Dhillo.
“So far we have only done this on study on healthy young men, without sexual problems so we need to see if could be repeated on those with disorders. But we did find that those people who had lower pleasure ratings to begin with gained the biggest effect.
“This hormone is in all of us, so we know that is safe, and maybe one day there will be a tablet that people could take to boost this effect. This started out as a crazy idea and we did the experiment to see if it would work, and we have the first indication that it might.”
The team, whose findings are reported in the Journal of Clinical Investigation , now plans to study the effects of kisspeptin in a larger group including women as well as men.
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