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Everyone gets turned on by different things. For some, it's a hot guy with a hot car and a sound system, for others it's watching a hot dog eating contest. We may not know why a hot dog turns you on more than a hot car, but new research shows that your brain wiring could determine just how turned on you get.

A new study from the University of California Los Angeles, published in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, shows that the way your brain responds to potential turn-ons can have an impact on your real-world sexual behavior.

Participants in the study were hooked up to a brain-scanning device and shown a series of images. The images varied widely; some were pornographic (highly sexual) and others were not at all sexual in nature (landscapes, portraits). Nicole Prause, research scientist in the department of psychiatry at UCLA, then measured the ways in which participants' brains responded. Everyone responded strongly to the images of sexual penetration, but the some participants responded just as strongly to the less explicit images.

"If your brain responds very strongly even to very tame pictures of sex, then you seem to be easily sexually excited in the real world, too," said Prause in a statement.


The participants, 40 men and 22 women, ages 18 to 40, were then asked how many sexual partners they've had in the past 12 months.

Those whose brains showed strong response to both the graphic and non-graphic images - who were aroused more easily - reported having a higher number of sexual partners. Those who responded only to the overtly sexual images had fewer partners.


Plot showing how strongly the brain responds to sexy pictures relative to other emotional and neutral pictures


"This pattern helps tell us why people may choose to pursue new sex partners," Prause said. "For example, some researchers have suggested that people may pursue new partners to experience sexual excitement that they did not experience in their regular lives or with their regular partner."

The study disproves the idea that people seek new partners because they are bored by regular partner or non-risky sex. In other words, Prouse said in an email to Fusion, "We thought before that people with more partners actually would be underreactive to sexual pictures, but we found the opposite."


Prause and her colleagues hope that the research will help figure out why some people engage in more risky sexual behavior than others, and how to curb that risky behavior. Depending on how your brain is wired, it may be harder for some people to control.

Alexandra DiPalma is a producer for Fusion Lightworks, Fusion’s In-house Branded Content Agency.