When a student asks if he can use the bathroom in a public university, the professor can only respond, “No.
I don’t have the bathroom.”
The student then asks him why he should be afraid of getting raped at the university.
The professor says it’s because there are rapists.
But it’s not just an American story.
“What happens in your mind?
What’s happening in your brain?”
Dr. Eric Schmid, an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh, tells Recode.
“This is a story of how we’re all wired, and the way we think about things, and our beliefs about them, are really very important.
And the reason that we’re able to see that in other species, it’s kind of a miracle.
And if we could get to the brain and see that, it could change our lives.”
He explains that in the U.S., about half of the country’s roughly 7 million students are female, and that the number of rapes committed by men has increased since the 1970s.
The number of reported rapes is also rising.
And it’s becoming more common, Schmid says.
“We’re seeing more and more women in the workforce, we’re seeing less male violence in schools, and more men are being reported.”
But how can scientists help fix this?
The best way to tackle the problem is to learn more about how the brain works, he says.
This is why Dr. James Faraone, a professor of neuroscience at the Yale School of Medicine, created a program to try to study how different brain structures affect sexual arousal.
“The brain is very well understood, but there is still a lot we don’t know about the brain,” he says in an interview with Recode, “particularly when it comes to the ways that different brain regions work together.”
Schmid and his team at Penn started looking into what happens in the brains of men and women when they are aroused by different sexual stimuli, and found the opposite to be true.
“When men and females experience erotic stimuli that are similar to the same stimuli, their brain systems in the hypothalamus and the amygdala are activated, and those areas are more sensitive to sexual stimuli,” he said.
“So, in this case, there are differences between the two genders that cause arousal, even though it’s the same stimulus.”
That’s a new finding in the field of neuroscience, Schamp says.
And he and his colleagues were also able to study brain activity when a person was alone in a room, with no one present, and saw differences in how the brains responded to sexual imagery.
“It’s interesting that when people are alone, their brains respond to a different stimulus than when they’re with a person who’s in a social context,” he explains.
“And this may be an example of how different experiences trigger different brain circuits, or even cause the same brain circuits to be active.”
It’s not yet clear how this type of experiment will help solve the problem of campus rape.
There’s no reliable way to tell how many people are raped on a campus, Schmarth says.
But if we’re going to have a better understanding of how to solve the issue, the next step is to look at how other species like dogs and cats, which have similar brain structures, react to sexual images.
“To me, that’s a pretty important step forward,” he tells Recodes.
“That’s one of the key things that makes us think that these species are capable of sexual arousal, and not just animals, or humans.”
And with that, Schmids team is now in the process of doing a similar study on humans.
“Our next step in this work is to see if we can understand how sexual arousal differs in different species, to see whether we can see differences in the brain, to understand the mechanisms that are at play,” he concludes.
And even if we don.
In the meantime, Dr. Schmid wants to find out whether there’s anything that he can do to stop sexual assault on college campuses, in the near future.
“I think there’s a lot of people who feel like they’re in a bind, and they’re just not able to say to themselves, ‘This is what it is that we do, and we should be more aware of these issues, and make sure that we teach our students and our staff about these issues,'” he says, “but also make sure we’re not reinforcing the problem.”