Is there science to this emotional reaction?
February 15, 2010 10:12 AM   Subscribe

Is there a scientific explanation for this reaction?

Recently, I've discovered that when my boyfriend sucks on my nipples in a particular way, I get a very intense flood of emotions and images. Typically the images are things that filled me very contentedly growing up; a dark grey midwest sky, lake water in the summer, the feel of sun. It's always nature related, and always good. I've gotten this reaction sometimes when I play with my own nipples, but never so intensely.

I know that when women orgasm, they experience a flood of chemicals that help them bond to their partner. Are his actions creating something similar? I'm looking for scientific articles or examples over anecdotal evidence, but would also like to hear if other women experience the same thing.
posted by thatbrunette to Science & Nature (5 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

Best answer: Oxytocin?
posted by 517 at 10:44 AM on February 15, 2010

maybe your nipples are synesthestic?
posted by Jon_Evil at 11:10 AM on February 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Ok. So oxytocin is an endogenous opium-like chemical that's produced by your brain at various times, including when a woman is breastfeeding. The mesocorticolimbic region of your brain, which responds to oxytocin, also is involved with attachment reactions of mother to child, child to mother, and romantic partners to each other. It's possible that for you, the oxytocin (and other neurotransmitters) produced by the breastfeeding-like action of nipple sucking is activating your motherhood/childhood/domestic bliss circuits in some interesting ways.

So your hypothesis about orgasms is on the right track.
posted by Jon_Evil at 11:17 AM on February 15, 2010

Release of endorphins most likely. They set off your opioid receptors and cause strong feelings of pleasure and imagery.
posted by damn dirty ape at 11:38 AM on February 15, 2010

Best answer: > endorphins

Literally "Endogenous Morphine" or "morphine that the mind makes." These neurochemicals were discovered because of drugs - "hey, if these drugs do things to the brain, it must be mimicking something the brain does naturally already."

Emotions and the Brain: Love
Taylor and her team even had a solid hunch about the brain chemistry behind the tending instinct. Researchers had long since detected the release of the peptide oxytocin during some of the key life experiences that involve intense emotional attachment: birth, breast-feeding, and sexual climax. In recent years, higher oxytocin levels had been linked to stressful experiences as well. While oxytocin was present in both male and female brains, evidence suggested that estrogen enhanced the peptide's effects, making it less powerful in males because of testosterone levels. If there was a biologically grounded tending instinct, oxytocin probably played a role.


Mothers who breast-feed their children often describe powerful memories of infants gazing up at them during nursing. The vividness of those memories, and their association with warm feelings, may well be the imprint of oxytocin.
posted by MesoFilter at 12:23 PM on February 15, 2010

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