Forget Viagra: Scientists are working on an electronic "sex chip" that will be able to stimulate pleasure centers in the brain.

The prospect of the chip, which could be a decade away, is emerging from progress in deep-brain stimulation, in which tiny shocks from implanted electrodes are given to the brain. The technology has been used to treat Parkinson's disease.

In recent months scientists have been focusing on an area of the brain just behind the eyes known as the orbitofrontal cortex. This is associated with feelings of pleasure derived from eating and sex.

A research survey conducted by Morten Kringelbach, senior fellow at Oxford University's department of psychiatry, and reported in the Nature Reviews Neuroscience journal, found that the orbitofrontal cortex could be a "new stimulation target" to help people suffering from anhedonia, an inability to experience pleasure from such activities.

Stimulating this area can produce pleasure as intense as "devouring a delicious pastry," he said.

His colleague Tipu Aziz, a professor of neurosurgery at the John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford, predicted a significant breakthrough in the science behind a "sex chip" within 10 years.

"There is evidence that this chip will work," Aziz said last week. "A few years ago a scientist implanted such a device into the brain of a woman with a low sex drive and turned her into a very sexually active woman. She didn't like the sudden change, so the wiring in her head was removed."

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