Sex on the brain - what are these strange electric pulses?
December 12, 2012 1:06 PM   Subscribe

Sometimes when I have a sexual thought, I can literally feel a buzz, a reaction in my brain just above the ears on both sides of my head, almost an electrical feeling, usually in two short pulses. What is this? Do you experience it? More details inside.

So this brain buzz won't happen from watching porn but if I saw my wife bending over and very briefly fantasised getting behind her and getting busy then it would hit then, especially if I couldn't say anything out loud due to other people in the vicinity. There's a definite question of appropriateness that seems to have a connection. i.e. if it would be inappropriate to say anything or declare the fantasy.
If I had to pinpoint when it started I'd have to say when I gave up smoking after using Champix (Chantix) - but that was back in 2007 and it's still with me!
posted by anonymous to Science & Nature (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

Brain "zaps" are a noted side effect from anti-depressant withdrawal. From the wikipedia page:

Symptoms described as "brain zaps", "brain shocks", "brain shivers", "head shocks", or "cranial zings" are withdrawal symptoms experienced during discontinuation (or reduction of dose) of antidepressant drugs.[3][4] These result from a global downregulation of serotonin in response to increased levels of serotonin in the synaptic cleft, but the specific mechanism through which this creates symptoms is not understood.[citation needed] Common responses to dose reduction or cessation include dizziness, electric shock-like sensations, sweating, nausea, insomnia, tremor, confusion, nightmares, and vertigo.[3][4] The MedDRA "preferred term" for coding these types of symptoms in adverse drug reaction reports (for use in pharmacovigilance databases such as under the Yellow Card Scheme) is paraesthesia.[5][6]

Seven yearsis a long time for this to continue though. Maybe there's something about when you gets a powerful surge of hormones from a sexual urge, it activates the same part of the brain that reacts to these zaps and so it brings one on. (that's my completely unscientific guess, but it seems possible)
posted by Eicats at 1:12 PM on December 12, 2012

Ha, I thought of brain zaps, too. Your buzzes sounds quite close to what my brain zaps felt like, except mine came in three-pulse strikes, rather than two. I'd be interested to know if that phenomenon is related to what's happening to you.
posted by Coatlicue at 1:19 PM on December 12, 2012

I have experienced a similar sensation at random moments, especially while I'm very tired and highly caffeinated. My instantaneous (possibly irrational) reaction seems to assume it is tied to a particular thought I am having at the time, and I've always thought of these moments as "boggles." As in: mind-boggling.

Anyway, I've never used antidepressants. I just assumed it was one of those things which are not uncommon, but are hard to describe, highly subjective, and therefore mostly ignored.
posted by General Tonic at 1:26 PM on December 12, 2012

Autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) is a claimed biological phenomenon, characterized as a distinct, pleasurable tingling sensation often felt in the head, scalp or peripheral regions of the body in response to various visual and auditory stimuli. The phenomenon was first noted through internet culture such as blogs and online videos. Tom Stafford, a professor at the University of Sheffield, says "It might well be a real thing, but it's inherently difficult to research."
posted by unixrat at 1:51 PM on December 12, 2012 [4 favorites]

I have the same thing, although mine is definitely pleasurable and you don't mention anything about the "quality" of the zaps. In fact, I can will myself to have them by thinking about certain things.

Mine also usually occur when thinking about things of a sexual nature, but I've never figured out why that is.

But you are not alone. :-)
posted by tacodave at 3:59 PM on December 12, 2012

Offtopic but thanks unixrat - nice to know there is finally a name.
posted by snez at 6:08 PM on December 12, 2012

I often get something like that triggered for the same reasons. I’m think it’s something to do with a quick burst of adrenaline which the thought triggers and then its affect on the heart/brain as the heart seems to do one or two heavy beats that I can feel in my ears, with a fizz in the same place as my brain gets the adrenaline focus for a second or two. It’s weird, as it’s exactly the same response I get when I’m stressed and I think of something that I forgot to do - the adrenaline burst and a fizz behind the ears.
posted by guy72277 at 12:32 AM on December 13, 2012

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