Viagra may soon be history, for scientists at Oxford University are working on an electronic "sex chip" that can stimulate pleasure centers in the brain.
While the current technology is crude, the researchers say that the device could be perfected within a decade.
The prospect of the chip has emerged from progress in deep brain stimulation, in which tiny shocks from implanted electrodes are given to the brain.
For past few 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 recent research survey, which was 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. 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," Aziz says.
The wiring remains a hurdle: Aziz says current technology, which requires surgery to connect a wire from a heart pacemaker into the brain, causes bleeding in some patients and is "intrusive and crude".
By 2015, he predicts, micro-computers in the brain with a range of applications could be self-powered and controlled by hand-held transmitters.