Women's health * Men's health * Sexual health * Mental wellbeing

Women's curves better than drugs

Zone default image Hourglass figure stimulates men's brain

While London Fashion week is focusing on the so-called "size zero" controversy over women who are too thin, science has found that men's brains respond to more curvaceous figures such as J-Lo or Beyonce.

A new study demonstrates that the sight of a curvy woman's body has an effect on a man's brain similar to that of taking drugs. Contemplating the ins and outs a woman's figure stimulates the parts of the brain related to processing rewards.

About the study

Scientists at Georgia Gwinnett College in the US showed "before and after" pictures of naked women who had undergone digital cosmetic surgery. The images of the women were shown to men at random. The men were then asked to press a button to indicate how attractive they considered the women to be.

At the same time, the men’s brains were scanned to detect changes in key areas.

The women chosen for the study had all undertaken the surgery to enhance their "weight to hip" ratio (WHR), i.e. to make themselves more "curvy". This classic "hourglass" figure is considered to be attractive to men because larger breasts and wider hips with a smaller waist is supposed to indicate the health and fertility of the woman.

The Body Mass Index (BMI) measurement of the women was relatively unchanged by the surgical procedures.

The study found that the improvement in WHR resulted in stimulation of the parts of the brain associated with reward processing and decision making, but changes in BMI did not have this effect. These regions of the brain are also stimulated by drugs and alcohol.

Although these findings are interesting, the leader of the study, Dr Steven Platek, suggests that they can have wider application: "These findings could help further our understanding pornography addiction and related disorders, such as erectile dysfunction in the absence of pornography.

"The findings could also lend to the scientific inquiry about sexual infidelity", he added.

The study is published in the online journal PLoS ONE.

This article was published on Thu 25 February 2010

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