Friday, May 13, 2022

What Does Sex Do To The Brain

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Current Status Of Human Sexual Response Neuroimaging

What Does Pornography Do to Your Brain?

More than before, experimental designs are being developed that can avoid confounds caused by participant reaction manipulation. Some studies use subliminal presentations of sexual stimuli, eliminating elaborate cognitive processing . A novel approach involves adding cognitive loading to a visual sexual stimulation design to decrease the likelihood of cognitive reaction manipulation . Such approaches may eliminate unwanted effects of, for instance, adherence to cultural standards on sexual responding.

It May Make Us More Open

Thanks to oxytocin, a brain hormone thats released during sexual arousal, youre more likely to be outgoing and social after regular bedroom interludes, say scientists from Montreals Concordia University. If someone is feeling very distressed, oxytocin could promote social support seeking, and that may be especially helpful to those individuals, says study author Christopher Cardoso. Plus, circulating oxytocin also makes us less sensitive to social rejection.

Ways Sex Affects Your Brain

Understanding how sex affects your brain can improve your roll in the hay, and it may also shed light on other parts of your health, said Barry R. Komisaruk, distinguished professor of psychology at Rutgers University in Newark, New Jersey. It’s not the easiest subject to studytest subjects might have to masturbate in an MRI machineso research is still developing. But scientists are starting to unravel the mystery. Here’s what we know so far about your brain on sex.

Sex is like a drug Sex makes us feel good. That’s why we want it, like it, and spend so much time hunting for mates. The pleasure we get from sex is largely due to the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that activates the reward center of the brain. Dopamine is also one of the chemicals responsible for the high people get on certain drugs.

“Taking cocaine and having sex don’t feel exactly the same, but they do involve the same regions as well as different regions of the brain,” said Dr. Timothy Fong, associate professor of psychiatry at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine.

Caffeine, nicotine, and chocolate also tickle the reward center, said Komisaruk.

“It took greater pain stimulus for them to feel the pain,” said Beverly Whipple, a professor emerita at Rutgers University who has conducted some research on the topic.

Negative Thought Pattern #2: Worrying About The Other Person’s Pleasure More Than Your Own

For many people, this one manifests less as the thought “their pleasure is more important than mine” and more as a habit of worrying about whether your partner is satisfied and often an intense discomfort with receiving pleasure while not also giving it. It’s no wonder, because women are socialized to believe that their value is based on providing sexual pleasure to other people, particularly to men. For many women, this is most acute when receiving oral sex without reciprocating.

So if you find that you are uncomfortable with a session where you have an orgasm and your partner doesn’tbut you feel fine when it’s the other way aroundthen you’ve got some thoughts about this that are worth investigating!

A variation on this is the fear that you are taking too long to reach orgasmwhich is similar in that it considers your orgasm as somehow separate from the rest of the sexual experience and your partner’s orgasm.

How Much Do We Know About Male And Female Brains Are They Different So What

How does the female brain work

Whether there really are differences in the brains of males and females has become a highly politicized issue. This is because there are those who seem to think that if there are no differences, or that such differences that exist are only part of a general variation between individuals, this will somehow strengthen the case for gender equality.

This argument is deeply flawed for two reasons: there are well-established differences, but the fact they exist is no more are argument against equality than differences in the color of skins, eyes, height or any other physical quality, even if such differences, for example, in muscular strength, may contribute to males imposing inequality on women. So lets turn away from such fevered arguments, and take a cool look at the evidence. Are there gender differences, and do they matter?

The first line of evidence comes from studies on animals. If you examined the brains of male and female rats under a microscope, you would notice a marked difference in the size of some clumps of nerve cells . Neurons tend to form such clumps and they usually signify a common function in that part of the brain. There are a number of nuclei that show gender differences: some are larger in males, others in females. Thats interesting, but it gets even more intriguing. You can change a male type nucleus into as female type one, and vice versa. How?

What Is Sexual Dimorphism

We often discuss sexual dimorphism in terms of physical attributes. Think of the peacock tail: males have long, brightly colored feathers while females sport shorter, duller plumage. But you can also see these kind of observable, phenotypic differences in the brain as well. These biological sex differences arise not only from epigenetic hormone actions during developmental sensitive periods but also from an individuals experiences interacting with the outside world. And that results in human brains that show visible differences in terms of size, appearance, and function between the sexes of a species.

Whats Your Name Again

Before we freak you out, this is super duper rare, but sex can wipe your memory at least for a while. Transient global amnesia is a rare and thankfully, temporary condition where recent memory is lost and strangely, sexual intercourse is a trigger. More common in people aged over 50, transient global amnesia only affects around 3 to 5 people in 100,000 per year. Talk about mind-blowing sex eh?

After An Orgasm The Brain Releases Hormones That Can Make You Feel Happy And Sleepy

Once an orgasm has occurred, your brain tends to slow down. But it doesn’t go off-duty entirely.

“In both men and women, the orgasm signals the parasympathetic nervous system to start down-regulating the body. The prefrontal cortex, which was previously activated leading up to orgasm, also becomes down-regulated – and this is linked to increased levels of oxytocin to facilitate attachment,” explained Sher.

Sukel added that the brain also churns out serotonin after an orgasm. This hormone is known to promote good mood and relaxation. In some people, serotonin can also lead to drowsiness and the desire to curl up for a nap.

Sex Releases Oxytocin Making You Feel Connected To Your Partner

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After sex, oxytocin â often referred to as the âcuddle hormoneâ â is released, especially in cis women and those assigned females at birth . “Oxytocin gives us that warm and fuzzy feeling after orgasms that make many of us want to nap, snuggle, or get comfy,” says Francis. “If open to connection, this hormone makes us feel connected or attached to the person we have just slept with.”

Oxytocin also has pain-relieving properties that can help alleviate symptoms we may have been experiencing before or during sex, such as stress, headaches, or discomfort from rougher play.

Researchers Are Still Unpacking The Different Variables In The Lust Attraction And Attachment Equation

The biology of lust, attraction, and attachment is far from simple. Hormones certainly play a role.

Generally speaking, lust is driven by testosterone and estrogen, regardless of gender. And lust is driven by the craving for sex.

Attraction is driven by dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin.

Attraction may or may not involve lust, but the brains reward center is a factor. Thats why you get all giddy or feel like youre walking on air in a relationships early phase.

Attachment is driven by oxytocin and vasopressin. Thats what sets the stage for bonding and long-term relationships.

Theres some overlap of hormones, hormone levels differ, and theres a whole lot more to it than that.

Lets face it: Sex and love are complicated. Were only skimming the surface of what makes humans tick.

The scientists among us continue to delve into the mysteries of our sexual desires and emotions and how they play on each other.

Yet its entirely possible that well never solve the equation, leaving a little something to the imagination.

Does Having More Sex Boost Your Brain Power


Having more sex may boost brain power in older adults, suggests new research.

Not all of the older adults in the study were all that old; participants ranged in age from 50-83. All of them completed questionnaires about their sexual activity over the previous 12 months along with other questions about lifestyle habits and health.

They then took a series of tests to assess memory, attention, language apprehension, verbal fluency and visuospatial ability. All of the tests were standard measures of cognitive ability and processing speed. The visuospatial tests, for example, required participants to draw a clock face from memory , among other things.

When the test results were lined up with the sexual activity results, it didnt appear that having more sex had a direct influence on attention, memory or language.  Those who reported having essentially no sex life did just as well as the most active of the group.

Whatever the explanation, I think we can put these findings in the good news file. They arent conclusive  but they build on previous research showing similar results, so it’s reasonable to conclude that there’s something there worth considering.

Here’s What Happens To Your Body And Brain When You Orgasm

Though you don’t need to have an orgasm to find sex pleasurable, it’s definitely a great bonus.

In order to figure out what’s going on our brains when we climax, researchers use fMRI Machines or a PET scans. These devices can measure the blood flow and neuron activity in the brain.

1. The logical part of your brain basically shuts down during sex.

There’s a reason why people tend to feel bolder and less inhibited during sex the part of your brain in charge of your logical reasoning skills temporarily goes on vacation.

“The lateral orbitofrontal cortex becomes less active during sex. This is the part of the brain that is responsible for reason, decision making, and value judgments. The deactivation of this part of the brain is also associated with decreases in fear and anxiety,” clinical psychologist Daniel Sher told INSIDER.

This shutdown of the lateral orbitofrontal cortex actually makes sense, as fear and anxiety can interrupt arousal and lead to problems like performance anxiety.

2. Multiple spatially remote parts of your brain are involved in having an orgasm.

Medical imaging tests suggest there are multiple spatially remote brain regions that are involved in sexual response.

“Researchers have found that genital sensory cortex, motor areas, hypothalamus, thalamus, and substantia nigra all light up during the big O,” cognitive psychologist Kayt Sukel explained to INSIDER.

3. When you orgasm, your brain releases a surge of dopamine.

More from Business Insider:

Sex: Why It Makes Women Fall In Love

How Sex Affects the Brain?

Sex is one of our biggest preoccupations causing thrills, heartache and downright confusion. But until recently, exactly what happens in the brain during sex was something of a mystery to scientists.

Now, however, American researchers have uncovered what goes on in a womans head during an orgasm.

The scientists from Rutgers University, New Jersey, used scans to monitor womens brains during orgasm and found that different brain parts are activated when various parts of her body are aroused.

Scientists used scans to monitor women’s brains during orgasm and found that different brain parts are activated when various parts of her body are aroused

They found that up to 30 different parts of the brain are activated, including those responsible for emotion, touch, joy, satisfaction and memory.

The scientists found that two minutes before orgasm the brains reward centres become active. These are the areas usually activated when eating food and drink.

The Orbitofrontal Cortex Is Shut Down Which Can Affect Decision

Have you ever had a toe-curling, screaming orgasm where you felt out of control â but in a good way? Francis shares thatâs likely because having orgasms shuts down part of the orbitofrontal cortex of the brain, a region responsible for decision-making. Whether you moaned louder than you planned or your pelvis moved in a new way, Francis notes that during an orgasm, you may not really know what your body is doing.

“Although just for a moment, a pause in function of the lateral orbitofrontal cortex creates that out-of-body sensation sometimes experienced during orgasm,” says Francis. “This may look like a spasm, a tic, a limpness, or just a sense of being overcome by your orgasm.”

The orbitofrontal cortex shutting down also makes you feel fewer inhibitions, meaning you may feel bolder and daring between the sheets. This means you may feel less concerned about what you look or sound like in a given sexual scenario, and are more focused on what feels good for you.

Orgasm Also Lights Up Several Parts Of The Female Brain

Though male sexual response has been extensively studied, fewer studies have been done on the effects of sexual response on the female brain.

But in 2017, researchers at Rutgers University Newark used fMRI to examine brain activity immediately before, during, and immediately after female orgasm.

The study, published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine found that brain activity was “heightened” in the moments during orgasm, with activity overall being lower during the arousal period beforehand and the recovery period afterward. The activity level increased during orgasm in several parts of the brain, indicating that it’s not just our bodies that experience heightened sensations during orgasm, but our brains as well.

Male Sexual Stimulation May Also Increase Brain Activity Too

In 2005, researchers at the University Medical Center Groningen in the Netherlands studied the human brain during penile sexual stimulation, finding that sexual desire before physical stimulation activated the right amygdala, triggering penile erection, sexual feelings, and sensations of pleasure.

A 2003 study from the same university â which focused on the link between male ejaculation and brain activity â found that the increase in blood flow to the cerebellum upon ejaculation also plays an important role in “emotional processing.”

How Rhythmic Stimulation Can Induce A Sexual Trance

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To reach his findings, Safron analyzed an abundance of studies and literature that have investigated the brain and bodys response to sexual stimulation.

He used the information to create a model that sheds light on how rhythmic sexual activity affects rhythmic activity in the brain.

Safron explains that rhythmic sexual stimulation if intense enough and if it lasts long enough can boost neural oscillations at correlating frequencies, a process called neural entrainment.

This process may be responsible for what Safron describes as a sexual trance, where sole focus is on the immediate sensation experienced.

The idea that sexual experiences can be like trance states is in some ways ancient. Turns out this idea is supported by modern understandings of neuroscience.

In theory, this could change the way people view their sexuality. Sex is a source of pleasurable sensations and emotional connection, but beyond that, its actually an altered state of consciousness.

Adam Safron, Ph.D.

Newer Views On The Sexual Response

For one thing, not every sex act leads to orgasm. Some people have sex without feeling any excitement. Others have multiple orgasms in a row, and they don’t reach resolution.

The sexual response cycle model has gotten some updates over the years. In the late 1970s, sex therapist Helen Singer Kaplan, MD, PhD, added desire to the cycle. In her view, people need to be in the mood and emotionally ready for sex to get aroused and have an orgasm.

In 2001, Rosemary Basson, MD, a professor of sexual medicine at the University of British Columbia, threw the whole model for a loop — literally. She created a circular sexual response model. Its main ideas are that people have sex for many different reasons, not just excitement. And each part of the cycle doesn’t have to happen in any special order. For example, desire can come late in the process.

Orgasm isn’t the only reward for having sex. You can do it for lots of other reasons, like to increase intimacy or make your partner happy. “Just because someone doesn’t have an orgasm doesn’t mean they aren’t feeling some level of satisfaction,” Mark says.

Certain Parts Of The Brain Warm Up

The limbic systema more primitive region of the brain responsible for physical drives and elements of emotional processingactivates during sex, according to Jason Krellman, PhD, a neuropsychologist and assistant professor of neuropsychology at Columbia University Medical Center. Other parts of the cerebral cortex that govern higher reasoning, however, shut down. As a consequence, the sexual act itself is driven more by instinct and emotion than rational thought, Krellman says.

Others Find That Acting On Physical Attraction Can Lead To Emotional Attraction

Some people are physically drawn together like magnets.

Theres a chemical reaction, a hunger, a purely physical craving for getting physical with another person. Its lust.

When the chemistry between people is just right, getting physical can grow into so much more.

A 2012 retrospective review found two areas of the brain that track the progression from sexual desire to love. One is the insula. Its located in the cerebral cortex.

The other is the striatum. Its located inside the forebrain. Interestingly, the striatum is also associated with drug addiction.

Love and sexual desire activate different parts of the striatum.

Sex and food are among the pleasurable things that activate the lust part. The process of conditioning of reward and value activates the love part.

As sexual desire is rewarded, it becomes a bit of a habit, which can lead you right down the path to love.

As feelings of lust start to turn into love, another area of the striatum takes over.

It Lowers The Risk Of Prostate Cancer

What happens to your brain on sex?

A study found that frequent ejaculations appear to be linked to a decreased risk of prostate cancer. Out of 50,000 males aged between 40 and 75, men who reported 21 or more a month were less likely to get prostate cancer than those who reported four to seven. A follow-up study replicated the results.

Sex Can Also Cause A Phenomenon Known As The Post

Though most of us reap intense emotional and physical feelings of relaxation and bliss after a romp in the hay, some people actually experience the opposite, feeling sad, anxious, or angry after sex.

The International Society for Sexual Medicine describes postcoital dysphoria as “feelings of deep sadness or agitation after consensual sex, even if the encounter was loving, satisfying, or enjoyable,” leading to a deep emotional response after orgasm.

A 2018 study published in The Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy found that postcoital dysphoria  has been reported among females after consensual sex, but the data among males appears more “nuanced” than previously thought.

If you’ve ever experienced a strong feeling of sadness or anger immediately after sex, you may have felt the effects of PCD firsthand and should consider talking to a therapist to understand why.

The Brain And The Female Orgasm

In a study of the female orgasm that was conducted last year, scientists from Rutgers University in Newark, NJ, monitored the brain activity of 10 female participants as they achieved the peak of their pleasure either by self-stimulation or by being stimulated by their partners.

The regions that were significantly activated during orgasm, the team found, included part of the prefrontal cortex, the orbitofrontal cortex, the insula, the cingulate gyrus, and the cerebellum.

These brain regions are variously involved in the processing of emotions and sensations of pain, as well as in the regulation of some metabolic processes and decision-making.

Another study previously covered on MNT suggested that the rhythmic and pleasurable stimulation associated with orgasm puts the brain in a trance-like state. Study author Adam Safron compares the effect of female orgasms on the brain to that induced by dancing or listening to music.

Music and dance may be the only things that come close to sexual interaction in their power to entrain neural rhythms and produce sensory absorption and trance, he writes.

That is, he adds, the reasons we enjoy sexual experiences may overlap heavily with the reasons we enjoy musical experience, both in terms of proximate and ultimate levels of causation.

Having sex has repeatedly been associated with improved moods and psychological, as well as physiological, relaxation.

The hypothalamus dictates the release of a hormone called oxytocin.

What Can Go Wrong

Problems can happen at any phase of the sexual response cycle. Desire can dim, you may have trouble getting aroused, or you may not be able to reach orgasm.

Sometimes, a physical problem is to blame. For instance, erectile problems or vaginal dryness can make sex more difficult or painful. In turn, a physical problem can trigger an emotional response where you don’t desire sex as much, Mark says.

But again, everyone is different. Even if you never get aroused, you might be just fine with your sex life.

Whether thereâs a problem that needs help “comes down to your quality of life and how important this is to you,” says Irwin Goldstein, MD, medical director of San Diego Sexual Medicine.

If youâre unhappy about your sex life, tell your doctor. You could have a treatable medical problem, like vaginal dryness or erectile dysfunction. Some types of medications can also hamper desire. Changing the dose or switching prescriptions might help.

If the problem isn’t physical, your doctor can refer you to a sex therapist to help you work through any emotional, relationship, or psychological issues that are affecting your sex life. The therapist can teach you and your partner ways to manage problems like a lack of desire or trouble reaching orgasm.

Regardless Of Your Individual Outlook Sex And Emotion Affect The Same Pathways In The Brain

What Does Your Brain Has To Do With Your Sexual Orientation?

A 2018 study suggests integral links between sexual, emotional, and reproductive brain processes having to do with the endocrine system and, in particular, a hormone called kisspeptin.

According to a Tufts University neuroscience blog, sexual arousal doesnt happen in a vacuum, but in a context.

It involves cognitive, physiological, and neurological processes, all of which include and are influenced by emotion. Makes sense.

The rush of hormones involved in sex means that certain feelings are fairly common during or immediately following sex.

Nobody feels every emotion every time, of course.

Among the more positive ones are:

  • euphoria
  • feeling physically or emotionally overwhelmed

If you have postcoital dysphoria, you might even feel sad, anxious, or tearful after sex.

The Brain Can Create New Pathways To Sexual Stimulation

While its often thought that sexual pleasure and orgasm are dependent on genital stimulation, research shows that the brain can sometimes create different pathways to pleasure that arent dependent on our sexual organs. This remapping of the senses can occur sometimes and allow us to experience orgasmic sensations in other parts of the body. For example, in people with paralysis, the brain has the potential to rewire itself so that it can allow that person to achieve orgasm through stimulation of other parts of the body. 

Your Brain Releases Vasopressin

Although some research suggests changes in vasopressin post-orgasm might make women experience sexual activity as more of an emotional connection, vasopressin changes are more significant in men, according to Prause. Given that vasopressin promotes sleepiness, this may reflect the gender differencessometimes the butt of jokesas men rolling over and snoozing immediately after sex, she says. There may be a biological basis for that.

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