Clitoris has more than 10,000 nerve fibers, research finds

"It’s particularly surprising when you compare the clitoris to other, larger structures of the human body."
Nergis Firtina
Abstract image of female genital organs.
Abstract image of female genital organs.

vvmich/iStock 

Thanks to a huge amount of nerve fibers, the clitoris help women to get sexual pleasure and plays an important role in the formation of orgasm.

Good news for people with vulvas, because new research from Oregon Health & Science University shows that the human clitoris uses more than 10,000 nerve fibers to produce pleasurable sensations. On the other hand, it is thought that the clitoris has approximately 8,000 nerve fibers, until recent days.

The findings were presented at a joint scientific meeting of the Sexual Medicine Society of North America and the International Society for Sexual Medicine.

The study's principal investigator and presenter was Blair Peters, M.D., an assistant professor of surgery at the OHSU School of Medicine and a plastic surgeon with expertise in gender-affirming care as part of the OHSU Transgender Health Program.

Clitoris has more than 10,000 nerve fibers, research finds
Blair Peters, M.D., an assistant professor of surgery in the OHSU School of Medicine and a plastic surgeon who specializes in gender-affirming care as part of the OHSU Transgender Health Program.

As stated in the release, Peters collected clitoral nerve tissue from seven adult transgender volunteers who had gender-affirming genital surgery. Tissues were colored and magnified 1,000 times under a microscope to count individual nerve fibers using image analysis software.

The samples had a total of 5,140 dorsal clitoral nerve fibers on average. Given that the dorsal nerve is symmetrical, an estimate of 10,281 nerve fibers for the human clitoral dorsal nerve was obtained by multiplying the average by two. Peters highlighted that the human clitoris really has more nerve fibers overall since it has other, smaller nerves in addition to the dorsal nerve.

More than 10,000 nerve fibers

“It’s startling to think about more than 10,000 nerve fibers being concentrated in something as small as clitoris,” Peters said.

“It’s particularly surprising when you compare the clitoris to other, larger structures of the human body. The median nerve, which runs through the wrist and hand and is involved in carpal tunnel syndrome, is known for having high nerve fiber density. Even though the hand is many, many times larger than the clitoris, the median nerve only contains about 18,000 nerve fibers, or fewer than two times the nerve fibers that are packed into the much-smaller clitoris.”

Clitoris has not been studying enough

Peters underlines that researchers are working hard on the penis, but studies on the clitoris are still insufficient.

The research may also assist patients who undergo labiaplasty, a cosmetic operation that involves shrinking the inner flaps of skin on either side of the vaginal entrance, to avoid unintentional nerve damage.

“Better understanding the clitoris can help everyone, regardless of their gender identity, but it’s important to acknowledge this research is only possible because of gender-affirming surgeries and transgender patients,” Peters added.

“There’s something profound about the fact that gender-affirming care becoming more commonplace also benefits other areas of health care. A rising tide lifts all boats. Oppressing or limiting transgender health care will harm everyone.”

Abstract:

It is frequently quoted in mainstream media that the clitoris has “8000 nerve endings”. However, no study has yet quantified the number of nerve fibers (axons) innervating the human clitoris. The dorsal nerve of the clitoris (DNC) is the primary source of somatic clitoral innervation. Reporting the number of axons in the DNC is an important step in our understanding of clitoral innervation and sexual response with implications for many fields of medical practice. Reconstruction following iatrogenic injuries to the dorsal clitoral nerve and restoration following cases of genital mutilation will benefit from a better understanding of the DNC. This knowledge will also be an important factor contributing to the optimization of nerve selection and sensory outcomes in gender-affirming genital surgery.

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