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Alfonso Troisi

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date: 09 May 2021

Contemporary neurobiological research has greatly improved our understanding of brain mechanisms that regulate hedonic response and the environmental stimuli that trigger physical and mental pleasure. However, to explain what purpose pleasure serves, we need to look at the problem from the perspective of evolutionary biology. Focusing on a specific type of pleasure, sexual pleasure, this chapter introduces several evolutionary studies that show how the variation in pleasurable experiences becomes understandable when hedonic capacity is viewed as an inner navigator that evolved to guide individuals toward the most adaptive behavioral choices. As a case in point, the alternative hypotheses that have been advanced to explain the evolution of female orgasm (the adaptive versus the byproduct hypothesis) are discussed. The findings of recent studies exploring the complexity of human sexual response and the striking sex differences that distinguish male and female responses to sexual stimuli are also presented.

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