Does sex boost* brain power? It is an intriguing question to which most people will – most likely – secretly hope that the answer is yes. The most obvious reason for this is that most people enjoy sexuality in its various forms and thus would welcome associated health benefits. Particularly if this health benefit is increased intelligence. Intelligence is highly valued for the plethora of benefits it provides* in life, i.e. increased understanding of complex ideas, improved* job prospects, etc. Thus a synergistic effect between sex and brain power would be ideal. But is it really true? Does sex boost* brain power?
Sex: Good for the Brain?
Many people will be happy to know that most research supports* the notion that sex can be beneficial for health in a number of ways. According to Medicinenet.com, sex reduces* stress, is a form of exercise which boosts* cardiovascular health, improves* sleep and physical intimacy between partners, etc. And yes, there is evidence that sex can also improve* intelligence, memory and brain function. University of Maryland researchers studying mice, “… found that love-making greatly increased the creation of neurons located within the hippocampus, an area of the brain that is responsible for the formation of long-term memory. And stopping the mice from having sex led to a fall-off in their intelligence…” Similarly, researchers in South Korea found that “sexual interaction” seems to counteract the negative effects that stress have on the memory and the brain.
This positive correlation appears to be linked to the growth of an increase* in the number of nerves in the brain. This growth is what accounts for the increased mental acuity and memory capacity and is particularly marked in new couples that have just fallen in love. However, this growth rate does decline over time the longer the couple stays together. These positive effects on brain function do not seem to be limited to those of child-bearing age as some evidence suggests that older adults reduce* their risk of developing dementia when they remain sexually active.
While very sexual and fulfilling for many, it limits the involvement of the person observing the sex act. Considering this, research has explored if this limitation impacts the effect of sex on a person’s brain. In 2013, a study was published by the Journal of Sex Research, found that, “some individuals report(ed) problems during and after Internet sex engagement, such as missing sleep and forgetting appointments, which are associated with negative life consequences.”
The Journal of the American Medical Association recently published a study by German neuroscientists, Simone Kuhn from the Max Planck Institute and Jurgen Galinat from Charite University Medicine. The neuroscientists were intrigued by this question, noting how accessible the internet has made sex. To this aim, they questioned 64 men regarding their viewing habits regarding sex materials and scanned their brains. The results indicated that men with a smaller striatum are more likely to watch higher amounts of sex. The striatum is the portion of the brain responsible for a person’s internal “reward system”. This system reacts in proportion to positive things (i.e. money, etc.) one is exposed to – the larger the “reward” the more active the striatum becomes. These men with smaller striatum tended to watch more sex material and experienced less* of an internal reward (i.e. pleasure). Causation is unclear however, as it could be that men with smaller striatum tend to watch more sex or that watching a lot of sex leads to a smaller striatum.
But that’s not all. Having sex influenced by sex can have devastating effects for both the body and the brain. You see, when its real sex, there is that bond you can feel between you and your partner. You feel closer to them. You appreciate them for who they are and not comparing them with someone from a sex movie. So the sex is enjoyable is a healthy relationship. The brain gets to function in the moment the way it’s supposed to. Sex from internet on the other hand is quite different. Watching sex rewires the brain to think that sex is all about the body. So there is that selfish mindset that makes us thing “i have to get to the finish line now.” Sex to the brain loses its real meaning. It can even get to the point where we cannot get aroused without watching sex. The brain starts to think maybe our partner is not good enough. Or perhaps expecting them to do something they don’t we saw in sex. This destroys the whole act of sex for love. And the brain too is affected. All benefits above are lost.
While not sure it may not have a beneficial impact on a person’s brain, it does appear that personally engaging in sexual acts has many health benefits, one of which is boosting brain power. Often things that are healthy are not always appealing and/or exciting (i.e. flossing, eating certain foods, etc.). Sex, however, is one act that most people do enjoy and engage in plus feel happy. The accompanying health benefits offer extra bonus points.