There may be a way to boost the activity of a hormone linked to love and sex, British researchers report.
The naturally occurring hormone is called kisspeptin. It stimulates the release of other reproductive hormones inside the body, the research team said.
The study included 29 healthy, young heterosexual men. They received either an injection of kisspeptin or an inactive placebo. The men then underwent brain scans while being shown different types of pictures.
After an injection of kisspeptin, seeing sexual or romantic images of couples triggered increased activity in brain areas typically activated by sexual arousal and romance, the findings showed.
The researchers now want to study whether kisspeptin could help treat some psychosexual disorders — sexual problems with a psychological cause. These problems commonly occur in people with infertility, the study authors noted.
“Most of the research and treatment methods for infertility to date have focused on the biological factors that may make it difficult for a couple to conceive naturally. These of course play a huge part in reproduction, but the role that the brain and emotional processing play in this process is also very important, and only partially understood,” said study author Waljit Dhillo. He’s a professor of endocrinology and metabolism in the department of medicine at Imperial College London.
Study first author Alexander Comninos is also with Imperial College London’s department of medicine. He added that this study shows that kisspeptin boosts sexual and romantic brain activity, and decreases negative mood.
“This raises the interesting possibility that kisspeptin may have uses in treating psychosexual disorders and depression, which are major health problems which often occur together, but further studies would be needed to investigate this,” Comninos said in a college news release.
The study was published online Jan. 23 in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on infertility.
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