Good as it gets

Q: Beyond multi-orgasmic is milli-orgasmic thousands of orgasms. Is this potentiality in humankind's future? ­H. Hefner

 A: When researcher James Olds surgically implanted electrodes into rats' brains in an area of the hypothalamus presumed to control sexual processes and made it possible for the rats to stimulate themselves, some of them cranked up the juice 2,000 times an hour for 24 hours straight. They lost all interest in food, even to the point of starving themselves.

And later studies showed certain monkeys capable of sexual excitation through electrical brain stimulation.

There have been at least two cases where humans got similar treatment, report Paul Abramson and Steven Pinkerton in With Pleasure: Thoughts on the Nature of Human Sexuality: A male psychiatric patient and a female epileptic had brain electrodes implanted "for therapeutic purposes," and when stimulation occurred in areas of the limbic system, both reported experiencing sexual pleasure.

The wired-up guy, in fact, gave the rats a run for their money, hitting the button some 1,500 times an hour! "Not surprisingly, he also begged for a few more jolts just before the apparatus was put away."


Q: "He died peacefully in his sleep," people will say. But isn't this just a euphemism? Wouldn't dying normally be enough to rudely awaken a person, at least briefly? ­T. Lynch

 A: Of all the myths surrounding death, dying peacefully in one's sleep appears to be the one that nearly always is true, says University of Arizona emergency medicine specialist Kenneth V. Iserson, author of Death to Dust: What Happens to Dead Bodies? Most of these deaths are from the heart failing to beat normally (cardiac arrhythmias), effectively stopping blood flow to the brain. Immediate unconsciousness follows and, since the individuals are already asleep, they would have no awareness that they have passed from sleep to coma to death.

Those found dead in bed but who may not have died "peacefully" include people who suffer painful heart attacks, awaken, and then quickly succumb to abnormal heart rhythms or other conditions that make the heart unable to pump blood effectively. Strokes may be painless– especially if massive or immediately affecting the areas that control wakefulness and awareness– or may cause a severe headache that awakens the victim.

"Experience shows, however, that most people who 'die in their sleep' do so at least peacefully enough that their bed partners do not awaken. That seems to be as good as it gets."


Q: Are there bilinguals who stutter in one language but speak normally and even fluently in the other? ­E. Fudd

A: Curiously, this does happen, says University of Pittsburgh stuttering clinician J. Scott Yaruss, and maybe curiouser is that it can run both ways– there are stutterers who upon learning a new language find they stutter less or not at all, until familiarity grows with the new language and then on again comes the stuttering; others reverse this and stutter more at first, until familiarity tapers it.

Yes, stuttering can be strange, echoes Auburn University fluency disorders specialist Larry Molt, reflecting the deep and abiding complexity of speech itself, as witness those folks who stutter in their everyday talk but who become fluent when they break into song! Or certain well-known actors who conquer their stuttering best when they adopt a role and "speak in character."

Nobody understands this well, but neuro-imaging research seems to indicate stuttering flows out of different brain circuitry than normal speech, adds Molt. "And since later-learned languages are handled differently by the brain, either acquisition or storage, this may be how some bilinguals keep at least one tongue stutter-free."

(Send STRANGE questions to brothers Bill and Rich at