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a motor conditioned reflex by which an animal uses a lever to stimulate electrically the lower brain centers, including the rewarding center and the centers of stimulation and satisfaction. This phenomenon was discovered in rats by the American scientist J. Olds and the Canadian scientist P. Milner in 1954 and was subsequently reproduced in cats, dogs, dolphins, monkeys, and other animals. In many cases it was possible to show a connection between self-stimulation and the motivations of hunger, thirst, and sex, which made it possible to study self-stimulation as an artificial (imaginary) satiation. No such connection was observed in other cases, which indicated that the nerve apparatus of positive emotions in the hypothalamus and other parts of the brain was to a certain degree morphologically and physiologically independent. Human patients whose lower brain centers were stimulated for therapeutic and diagnostic purposes often reported feeling strong positive emotions and a sense of satisfaction and elation. This finally confirmed the relationship between self-stimulation and the lower brain centers of positive emotions.

Self-stimulation as a specific form of behavior has some characteristic features. When their satisfying brain centers are first stimulated by an electric current, animals start making searching movements, sniffing, and intensively exploring the environment. They quickly learn to receive self-stimulation by pressing the lever to close the electric circuit. Prolonged stimulation of the centers of satisfaction produces an emotionally negative response, and the animal will terminate stimulation by moving away from the lever. When the electric current is completely turned off, the self-stimulation conditioned reflex is usually quickly forgotten, and after several trials the animal ceases to press on the lever. Thus, self-stimulation does not become a habit, and the animal readily tolerates its cessation.

Changes in the electrical activity of the brain and the functions of the internal organs, for example, breathing, pulse rate, and blood pressure, during self-stimulation significantly differ from the aftereffects of the stimulation of the centers of the negative emotions of fear and pain. It is therefore possible to speak of the special state of the emotionally positive activation of the highest divisions of the central nervous system. Self-stimulation is a valuable experimental model with which to study the physiology of positive emotions and their effect on the activity of the brain and the body as a whole.


Bekhtereva, N. P. Neirofiziologicheskie aspekty psikhicheskoi deiatel’nosti cheloveka. Leningrad, 1971.
Mikhailova, N. G. “Elektroentsefalograficheskie i vegetativnye korreliaty reaktsii samorazdrazheniia,” Zhurnal vysshei nervnoi deiatel’nosti, 1971, vol. 21, issue 1.
Milner, P. Fiziologicheskaia psikhologiia. Moscow, 1973. Pages 470–513. (Translated from English.)
Sem-Jacobsen, C. W. Depth-Electrographic Stimulation of the Human Brain and Behavior. Springfield, 111. [1968].


References in periodicals archive ?
As a further benefit, the enactment of clitoral self-stimulation can reasonably be expected to contribute to orgasmic consistency within heterosexual encounters, which may ameliorate a concern that is frequently reported by women (see Fisher, Boroditsky & Morris, 2004; LoPiccolo & Stock, 1986).
I explored components of emotional experience, such as self-consciousness, controlling emotions, self-stimulation, empathy, and social abilities.
In this case, we sought to determine which stimuli would reduce stimulation deprivation (which is the logical establishing operation for self-stimulation in automatic reinforcement) when delivered noncontingently.
These topics included self-stimulation, homosexuality, and alternate lifestyles, and some participants chose not to answer these questions at all.
Increasing spontaneous play by suppressing self-stimulation in autistic children.
Since self-stimulation can be potentially harmful to the student as a learner and to the individual as a peer, a number of studies have investigated procedures that could decrease this behavior.
For one thing, it is doubtful that self-stimulation could generate sustained trains of intelligent thought.
Pleasurable genital self-stimulation (also referred to as genital play, infantile masturbation, or gratification behavior) usually begins between 7-10 months of age, but it is very variable (Haffner, 1999).
But self-stimulation is the best way to work out what gets your erotic juices flowing.
Coverage includes strategies for addressing behavioral issues, self-stimulation, aggression, and communication difficulties.
But, after breaking down and buying a vibrator from a slinky lesbian sex-shop salesclerk (unbilled Heather Graham), she becomes addicted to self-stimulation, to the point of finding inventive new uses for her vibrating cell phone.