How Does Sex Affect Your Brain?

Sexual intimacy can relieve stress and worry. Sex has been key to guaranteeing that the human race continues to exist through procreation.

Sexual intercourse is known to impact the way in which the rest of our body functions. Recent studies have discovered that it can have an effect on how much we eat, and how well the heart functions.

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Sex has been cited as an effective method of burning calories because appetite is reduced afterwards.

A 2016 study published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior found that women who have satisfying sex later in life might be better protected against the risk of high blood pressure.

Brain activity and sexual stimulation

Sexual stimulation for both men and satisfaction have been demonstrated to upsurge the activity of brain networks related to pain and emotional states, as well as to the reward system. This led some researchers to liken sex to other stimulants from which we expect an instant high such as drugs and alcohol.

Brain and penile stimulation

A study in 2005 by scientists at the University Medical Center Groningen in the Netherlands used positron emission tomography scans to monitor the cerebral blood flow of male participants while their genitals were being stimulated by their female partners.

Results from the scans showed that stimulating the erect penis increased blood flow in the posterior insula and the secondary somatosensory cortex in the right hemisphere of the brain, while decreasing it in the right amygdala.

The insula is a part of the brain that has been tied to processing emotions, as well as to sensations of pain and warmth. Likewise, the secondary somatosensory cortex is thought to play a vital role in encoding sensations of pain.

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As for the amygdala, it is known to be involved in the regulation of emotions, and dysregulations of its activity have been tied to the development of anxiety disorders.

Brain and the female orgasm

In a research of the female orgasm that was carried out 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 stimulating by their partners.

The scientists found that in the regions that were expressively activated during orgasm, 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.

In another previous study 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 with that induced by 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 (i.e. neural entrainment and induction of trance-like states) and ultimate (i.e. mate choice and bonding) levels of causation.”

Sex and hormones

Sex can impact our mood for the better, but sometimes for the worse. Having sex has repeatedly been associated with improved moods, psychological, and physiological relaxation.

The reason why we may feel that stress impacts us is due to a region of the brain called the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus dictates the release of a hormone called oxytocin.

Higher levels of oxytocin can offset the effects of cortisol, making us feel more relaxed. Oxytocin does not only make us calmer, but it also inhibits our sense of pain. A study from 2013 discovered that this hormone could relieve headaches in individuals living with them as a chronic condition. In a 2013 study, a different set of hormones that are released during sexual intercourse, called endorphins can also relieve the pain associated with cluster headaches.

Can sex also make us feel down?

Yes. While sex is considered generally as a great natural therapy for the blues, a small segment of the population actually report an instant down rather than an instant high after engaging in sexually activity.

This cause of this condition known as “postcoital dysphoria,” remain largely unknown. One 2010 study interviewed 222 female university students to better understand its effects.

Of these participants, 32.9 percent said that they had experienced negative moods after sex.

The researchers noted that a lasting prevalence of this condition could be down to past shocking events. The authors noted that;

“This draws attention to the unique nature of [postcoital dysphoria], where the melancholy is limited only to the period following sexual intercourse and the individual cannot explain why the dysphoria occurs.”

Sex may lead to better sleep

According to research, sexual intercourse can also improve sleep. After an orgasm, the body also releases higher levels of a hormone called prolactin, which is known to play a major role in sleep.

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