It was only matter of time after the invention of fMRI scanning machines — which track blood flow in the brain — that scientists would start having people pleasure themselves while strapped into one. And so it was that New Scientist writer Kayt Sukel ended up with this delightful scan of her brain at the moment of orgasm.
Sukel worked with Rutgers University researcher Barry Komisaruk, who's studying brain response during arousal and orgasm. Komisaruk has found that when many women achieve climax, their prefrontal cortexes (which are thought to govern "executive function" like decision-making) see increased activity. Its involvement, in particular when touches are imagined rather than felt, may indicate the use of "imagination or fantasy," as well as the ability of the brain to perform so-called "top-down" control over the body.
But the PFC isn't the only part of the brain that's active — as you can see, Sukel's brain saw activity in some 30 areas, "including those involved in touch, memory, reward and even pain." Interestingly, another study of orgasm examined by fMRI showed decreased activity in the PFC. The difference between the two studies? Komisaruk's investigated orgasm by self-stimulation, while the other featured subjects brought to climax by their partners — indicating that their may be a difference in how the brain functions in those difference scenarios.