Erectile dysfunction

Updated 09 February 2017

SEE: Can ‘mental Viagra’ cure erectile dysfunction?

The hormone kisspeptin can boost sexual desire and thereby address a possible psychological cause of ED.

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We all know Viagra has helped many men who have had trouble to rise to the occasion. Its success has been referenced in popular culture, and countless teen movies have joked about the effectiveness of the drug.

But it can only take you so far. Research from the University of Maryland has shown that erectile dysfunction has physical, psychological and lifestyle causes. Viagra focuses on the physical and doesn't help much when psychological and lifestyle issues are involved.

An old hormone

Fortunately a group of British scientists are working on so-called “mental Viagra”, and have discovered that addressing a psychological (mental) cause can have a physiological (physical) spillover – in this case boosting sexual desire.  

Researchers from the Imperial College in London have found that the hormone kisspeptin, that starts the process of puberty, can be a “mental Viagra” for men suffering from erectile dysfunction.

Normal erectile dysfunction drugs focus on the physiology, usually restoring blood flow to the penis, but it is not effective in raising sexual desires. Kisspeptin is a naturally occurring hormone that stimulates the release of other reproductive hormones inside the body.

According to a statement from the researchers, the study involved a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial in which 29 healthy heterosexual young men were given either an injection of kisspeptin or a placebo. In an MRI scanner the men were shown a variety of images, including sexual and non-sexual romantic pictures of couples, whilst researchers scanned their brains to see how kisspeptin affected the brain's responses.ED, mental viagra

The researchers found that after the injection of kisspeptin, when the volunteers were shown sexual or romantic images of couples, there was enhanced activity in structures in the brain typically activated by sexual arousal and romance.ED, mental viagra

Orange highlights illustrate the enhanced activity in the brain when the subjects had the kisspeptin injection and looked at sexual images. These areas of the brain have often been associated with processing of sexual, emotional and rewarding stimuli.

Promising results

The lead researcher, Professor Waljit Dhillo, told the Telegraph that this medication will go a long way to solving underlying psychological causes.

“Most of the research and treatment methods for infertility to date have focused on the biological factors that may make it difficult for a couple to conceive naturally.

“These of course play a huge part in reproduction, but the role that the brain and emotional processing play in this process is also very important, and only partially understood.”

Read more: 

Symptoms of erectile dysfunction

Causes of erectile dysfunction

9 facts on erectile dysfunction

 

Ask the Expert

Erectile Dysfunction Expert

Dr Kenny du Toit is a urologist practicing in Rondebosch, Cape Town. He is also consultant at Tygerberg hospital, where he is a senior lecturer at Stellenbosch University. He is a member of the South African Urological Association, Colleges of Medicine South Africa and Société Internationale d’Urologie. Board registered with both the HPCSA (Health professions council of South Africa) and GMC (General medical council UK). He has a keen interest in oncology, kidney stones and erectile dysfunction.http://www.dutoiturology.co.za

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