Sexual Stimulus Response Pathways

Response to a sexual stimulus is a simple reflex, which depends on the presence of sex hormones and can be modified by learning, by conscious and unconscious thoughts and by memories. If the genitals or the surrounding area are touched, the stimulus is relayed through a reflex arc to the spinal cord and out again to the organ, the penis or clitoris, which responds, for example by swelling. At the same time the sexual stimulus is also relayed via ascending nerve tracts to the brain. When the stimulus reaches the brain, the sexual response becomes a conscious one, and learned associations, or past experiences, are recalled. The social context, visual, auditory and tactile cues will then determine the course of the response Descending tracts from the brain carry information which may reinforce or inhibit the sexual reflex. Both the situation and the learned responses will affect the way the individual reacts.

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