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This Hormone Injection Could Make You More Romantic and Horny

A recent study sheds light on how kisspeptin, a naturally occurring reproductive hormone, works to link sexual and emotional brain processing with the part of the brain that regulates the reproduction.
February 1, 2017, 8:15pm
Photo by Danil Nevsky via Stocksy

Though many of us may feel like we constantly have sex on the brain, there are still many unknowns when it comes to understanding the role the brain plays in sex and reproduction. In a new study published last month in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, researchers reveal how the desire for sex, the need for emotional bonding, and making babies are all intertwined.

"Sexual and emotional responses are fundamental drivers of human behavior, and the links among sex, bonding, and reproduction ultimately ensure the survival of most mammalian species," write researchers from Imperial College London. But because the brain is so complex, scientists have long struggled to understand how all of its pathways and networks work together. This new study sheds light on how kisspeptin, a naturally occurring reproductive hormone, works to link sexual and emotional brain processing with the part of the brain that regulates the reproduction.

Researchers recruited 29 healthy, heterosexual men to participate in this study. On two separate visits, they received a dose of kisspeptin and a dose of a placebo, respectfully. The men were then placed in an MRI machine, shown images that were categorized as sexual, nonsexual couple-bonding, negative, and neutral, and asked to rate how pleasant they found each. They also saw images of happy, fearful and neutral emotional faces, and, after the test, filled out several psychometric questionnaires to measure sensitivity to punishment and award, sexual desire, love style and more.

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When researchers analyzed the MRI scans of participants' brains, they found that the increased levels of kisspeptin had enhanced activity in parts typically activated by sexual arousal and romance. The results reveal "evidence of an undescribed role for kisspeptin in integrating sexual and emotional brain processing with reproduction in humans," the study's authors write.

What was interesting, they note, is that the hormone provoked more activity in men who were found to have less drive and were less reward-responsive when they viewed the sexual images. Additionally, researchers found that kisspeptin had no impact on emotional brain activity when participants saw images of positive or neutral faces, but noted increased activity when participants saw negative images and a corresponding reduction in negative mood, as reported by the men.

This finding offers "human evidence of an antidepressant-like effect for kisspeptin," the study's authors note. Furthermore, kisspeptin could prove to be a treatment option for couples struggling with infertility in relation to a psychosexual disorder, though more research in this area would need to be conducted.

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Waljit Dhillo is a professor of endocrinology and metabolism at Imperial College London and an author on the study. He says this new research expands our understanding of how the human body works. "Our results show that hormones are powerful regulators of the reproductive system but also how our brain perceives sexual images," he tells Broadly. "This is fundamental to our understanding about how the body works"

"Until now," he continues, "we have thought that reproductive hormones only act at the testes in men and ovaries in women. This discovery shows that kisspeptin can stimulate reproductive hormones but also stimulate our brains to perceive sexual stimuli more positively, which is very exciting."