The Aetiology of Premature Ejaculation and the Mind–body Problem: Implications For Practice

D. L. Rowland; I. G. Motofei


Int J Clin Pract. 2007;61(1):77-82. 

In This Article

The Relationship Between Hardwired and Softwired Biological Systems

Because behavioural response systems consist of both hardwired and softwired systems, the two must be integrated within the organism. To the extent that softwired biological systems enable adaptation and flexibility of response, they also provide for variation in responding within an individual from one situation to the next. In this respect, softwired systems represent the primary source of response modulation, exerting control over hardwired system responses (Figure 3).

Figure 3.

Proposed dominance of softwired systems over hardwired systems in accounting for variation in response.

For example, the ejaculatory response exists as a complete reflex at the spinal level, as demonstrated in men with severed spinal cords. Upon disruption of input from the upper spinal cord and brain, the response appears as a kind of PE, with sensory stimulation terminating rapidly in seminal emission.[11] We might also assume that while this spinal reflex system exists in the pre-pubertal male, through the normal process of adolescent development, cerebral ejaculatory centres (perhaps through androgen-mediated sympathetic sexual arousal) become activated, shifting control of the ejaculatory response from spinal centres to biologically softwired brain centres.[12,13] That is, during puberty the cerebral ejaculatory system (interconnected with sexual arousal and 'passion'- generally postpubertal experiences) assumes control over the lower (hardwired) spinal ejaculatory reflex centre.

This model of brain control over spinal systems is not unique to ejaculatory control and response. Other spinal reflexes, including defecation and urination, begin as simple stimulus-response spinal reflexes. Yet through appropriate feedback and training, these spinal reflexes come under the control of biologically softwired brain centres. In this respect, softwired brain systems, responding to past (learned) experiences and current needs, exert control through either inhibition or facilitation of responding by the hardwired spinal reflex. In a similar manner, although occurring at a later developmental stage, softwired brain systems involved in ejaculation eventually override hardwired spinal reflexes through appropriate feedback, practice and learning. Again, the softwired system is not without limits in its capacity to control the spinal reflex system, e.g. when stimulation becomes so intense that the response can no longer be inhibited (e.g. very full bladder, very strong sexual stimulation, etc.).


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