After an unsuccessful attempt at creating a drug to increase female sexual desire, researchers are looking into a new treatment that will attempt to stimulate your sex drive by stimulating your brain.
Addyi — the so-called “female Viagra” and the last pharmaceutical attempt to treat low sex drive in women — didn’t go so well. After initially not getting FDA approval twice, it was backed by a bunch of allegedly feminist organizations claiming that women deserved something to treat low libido too. Great, except Addyi had some pretty serious and common side effects and also didn’t really work.
So it looks like the next major attempt will involve a type of direct brain stimulation, which neuroscientist and lead author of a study on this method, Dr. Nicole Prause, described as “like electroconvulsive therapy, but much more targeted and not nearly so dangerous” to The Cut, with the aim being to enhance the brain’s processing of sexual cues and in turn, increase sex drive.
Her initial research involved transcranial magnetic stimulation, which has already been used to treat depression and decrease cravings for tobacco, cocaine, alcohol and food, suggesting that it may be used to reward sensitivity — something researchers think could also be applied to treating low sex drive.
More: Ask a Raging Feminist: Would you try the new “female Viagra”?
Here are a few things you need to know about this potential new treatment:
1. The TMS device itself is approved by the FDA
This is where things could get tricky. The device used to perform TMS is already FDA-approved, but it could take years to get the treatment approved specifically for low sex drive. It’s not, however, out of the realm of possibility that doctors could currently start prescribing TMS for off-label use.
2. TMS is treatment, not enhancement
Using TMS can help women with low sex drive come up to “normal” or “baseline” levels, but not supercharge someone with a “normal” sex drive. In other words, it can’t take you from Liz Lemon to Blanche Devereaux with a few zaps to the brain.
3. There’s a prototype for a sexy, sexy headset
Although research into direct current stimulation isn’t as far along as TMS, Prause and her colleagues have developed a prototype for a DCS headset. Theoretically, users would strap on the headset, which would include a sensor on their forehead and another under their chin, which would stimulate the brain for 20 minutes. While it won’t result in direct sexual arousal, it should make users more receptive to sexual cues.
“It’s going to make it so that if you see something sexy, your brain will be in the mode that it can process that as sexual,” Prause told The Cut.
4. TMS would have long-term benefits, but DCS would be fast-acting
Initially, Prause thought that there would be more interest surrounding DCS because of its immediate benefits. In reality, though, she found that people were more receptive to TMS so they wouldn’t have to deal with regular treatment for their sex drive.
5. A prototype will be shown on the Today show tomorrow, Dec. 20
No word as to whether Al Roker or Matt Lauer will serve as test subjects.