Where Does Sex Live in the Brain?

Carl Zimmer in Discover:

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On April 11, 1944, a doctor named T. C. Erickson addressed the Chicago Neurological Society about a patient he called Mrs. C. W. At age 43 she had started to wake up many nights feeling as if she were having sex—or as she put it to Erickson, feeling “hot all over.” As the years passed her hot spells struck more often, even in the daytime, and began to be followed by seizures that left her unable to speak. Erickson examined Mrs. C. W. when she was 54 and diagnosed her with nymphomania. He prescribed a treatment that was shockingly common at the time: He blasted her ovaries with X-rays.

Despite the X-rays, Mrs. C. W.’s seizures became worse, leaving her motionless and feeling as if an egg yolk were running down her throat. Erickson began to suspect that her sexual feelings were emanating not from her ovaries but from her head. Doctors opened up her skull and discovered a slow-growing tumor pressing against her brain. After the tumor was removed and Mrs. C. W. recovered, the seizures faded. “When asked if she still had any ‘passionate spells,’” Erickson recounted, “she said, ‘No, I haven’t had any; they were terrible things.’”

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