Female orgasm but not male ejaculation activates the pituitary. A PET-neuro-imaging study

Neuroimage. 2013 Aug 1;76:178-82. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2013.03.012. Epub 2013 Mar 21.


The pituitary gland plays an important role in basic survival mechanisms by releasing fluctuating amounts of hormones into the bloodstream, depending on the circumstances the individual finds itself. However, despite these changes in pituitary hormonal production, neuroimaging studies have never been able to demonstrate changes in the activation level of the pituitary. The most apparent reason is the much higher blood flow rate in the pituitary than in the brain. However, the present PET-scanning study demonstrates for the first time that neuroimaging techniques can identify increased pituitary activity. In a study with 11 healthy women sexual orgasm compared to rest caused an increased blood supply to the pituitary. We assume that this increase signifies elevated pituitary activation in order to produce higher plasma concentrations of oxytocin and prolactin. These hormones induce vaginal and uterus movements, ovulation and enhancement of sperm and egg transport. No increased blood supply was observed comparing clitoral stimulation, orgasm attempt, and faked orgasm with rest. In a study with 11 healthy men comparing ejaculation with rest did not reveal increased pituitary activation, probably because ejaculation causes a much lower increase of oxytocin and prolactin plasma concentration than female orgasm.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Arousal / physiology
  • Ejaculation / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Orgasm / physiology*
  • Oxytocin / blood
  • Pituitary Gland / blood supply*
  • Pituitary Gland / diagnostic imaging*
  • Pituitary Gland / physiology*
  • Positron-Emission Tomography
  • Prolactin / blood
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Young Adult


  • Oxytocin
  • Prolactin