A recent study has made some shocking discoveries. It has found that girls hit puberty earlier and suffer significant changes in their brains if they’ve been touched inappropriately during early age. Researchers at the Bernstein Center, and Humboldt University, Berlin, led by Constanze Lenschow and Michael Brecht, reported that sexual touch has a bigger role play on puberty than previously assessed. It has been known for some time that social cues can either accelerate or delay puberty in mammals. But it hasn’t been clear which signals are important, now how they affect the body and brain.
The researchers first studied that the neural representation of the genitals in the cerebral cortex expands during puberty. To begin with, the study confirms what was anticipated, that sexual hormones accelerate puberty and the growth of the so-called genital cortex. However, the new thing that they found was sexual touch also contributes importantly to the acceleration of puberty.
During their study, the scientists first put young female rats together with male rats and found that the genital cortex expanded as a result. This didn't happen when the females were housed with other females, or if the males were separated from them by wire mesh, thereby preventing direct contact. However, they found that the same acceleration of cortical expansion could be observed when the rats' genitals were touched artificially using a lubricated brush.
Lenschow said, "the effects of sexual touch on puberty and the genital cortex are remarkable since you wouldn't expect this area of the brain to expand at this stage of development." Hence, the expansion of the genital cortex is not only triggered by hormones but also by sexual touch.
"The representation of the body changes in the cerebral cortex," noted Brecht, "and in particular the genital cortex doubles in size. Our results help to understand why the perception of our body changes so much during puberty." Thus, changes of the body and the concurrent changes in the brain during puberty are not merely a matter of hormones - they are also co-determined by sexual experience.
(With ANI Inputs)