Researchers at Oxford University say a brain implant will one day stimulate pleasure centers for people who have trouble enjoying sex and otherwise experiencing pleasure, according to a UK news report.
The sex chip, as it's been dubbed, would stimulate a part of the brain called the orbitofrontal cortex, targeting a joyless condition called anhedonia, according to the Daily Mail newspaper. A device along the same lines has been used already to treat Parkinson's disease, the researchers said, but a workable implant for stimulating orgasms is said to be a decade away because for now the surgery is too crude and intrusive.
"When the technology is improved, we can use deep brain stimulation in many new areas," said researcher Tipu Aziz of Oxford. "It will be more subtle, with more control over the power so you may be able to turn the chip on and off when needed."
Some readers might recall the orgasmatron, a fictional electromechanical device in Woody Allen's 1973 movie "Sleeper." It was rather impractical, being a large cylinder that a hopeful couple had to climb into.
As is often the case, sci-fi precedes real sci. But for more spontaneous joy, bionic implants are perhaps the preferred method over walk-in cylinders. And on that front, there is precedent.
U.S. Dr. Stuart Meloy, working on a way to treat chronic pain, stumbled on a real-world orgasmatron that involves sticking an electrode into a woman's spine.
"When we turned on the power in this case, she let out a moan and began hyperventilating," Meloy said on ABC's "Good Morning America" back in 2004. "Of course we cut the power and I looked around the drapes and asked her what was going on. Once she caught her breath, she said 'You're gonna have to teach my husband how to do that!'" Meloy's device requires surgical insertion and costs about $3,000 today.
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Robert Roy Britt is the Editorial Director of Imaginova. In this column, The Water Cooler, he takes a daily look at what people are talking about in the world of science and beyond.
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Robert is an independent health and science journalist and writer based in Phoenix, Arizona. He is a former editor-in-chief of Live Science with over 20 years of experience as a reporter and editor. He has worked on websites such as Space.com and Tom's Guide, and is a contributor on Medium, covering how we age and how to optimize the mind and body through time. He has a journalism degree from Humboldt State University in California.