The Various Effects of Sex on the Brain

(Last Updated On: September 20, 2016)

Whether you admit or not, sex is a powerful emotion that can be activated either by thoughts or physical stimulation. Understanding how sex affects the brain may help improve one’s roll in the sack and provide a clear picture for one’s overall health condition. Experts have a hard time studying the effects of sex on the brain. There were only a few studies in which subjects were examined under MRI while sexually stimulated and aroused.

The research in sex and its effect on the brain as well as other parts of the body are ongoing. The good news, scientists are beginning to unravel the mystery behind the science of sex. So far, here’s what experts know about the effects of sex on the brain.

The Drug-Like Effect of Sex

There’s no doubt that sex makes a person feel good. Of course, there are exceptions due to certain medical condition but normally, sex produces a good feeling. During sex, the brain releases dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter that activates the good feeling. Dopamine is activated in the reward center of the brain.

Dopamine is also among the many chemicals produced when people take addictive drugs. However, while taking recreational drugs and sex produce dopamine, they don’t produce the same feeling, but it activates the same area on the brain, which is the reward system. Other chemicals that activate the brain’s reward system include chocolate, caffeine, and nicotine. As you may have noticed, these are addictive when consumed in excessive amounts.

The Antidepressant Benefit of Sex

You’ve read it right! Sex has an antidepressant effect provided condom is not used during intercourse. One study conducted in 2002 by researchers from University at Albany SUNY found that women who had sex without condoms experience fewer symptoms of depression compared to those who used condoms. The researchers speculated that certain compounds in the semen like prostaglandin and estrogen have antidepressant effect1, which are absorbed by the body after having sexual intercourse.

In a sample of sexually active college females, condom use, as an indirect measure of the presence of semen in the reproductive tract, was related to scores on the Beck Depression Inventory. Not only were females who were having sex without condoms less depressed, but depressive symptoms and suicide attempts among females who used condoms were proportional to the consistency of condom use. For females who did not use condoms, depression scores went up as the amount of time since their last sexual encounter increased.

For couples who are in the process of having a baby, having sex without a condom not only allows conception, but also a way of boosting mood. Keep in mind, good mood is one of the requirements for having a great sex experience. For couples in the process of conception, it’s a good motivation to have more sex. However, keep in mind that having more sex does not directly equates better chances of conception. It all depends on the couple’s fertility, which can be improve via good nutrition, supplementation, and healthy lifestyle practices. Of course, proper timing during ovulation.

Additionally, for those who have sex with many partners, you may not be able to use sex as a mood booster as having sex without condom exposes one to sexually transmitted diseases.

Sex Can Sometimes Unexciting

There’s no doubt that during the act of sex, dopamine, the feel-good neurotransmitter is working full blast. However, after having sex, there are individuals particularly women who feel bad. This is known as postcoital dysphoria2, or in common language as post-sex blues. Over 30% of women who participated in a study experienced post-sex blues at some point. Unfortunately, the researchers were unable to explain the reasons aside from the feeling of regret, or forced to have sex.

Sex Is A Pain Reliever

While it was mentioned earlier that good mood is one of the requirements for having great sex experience, don’t skip having sex just because you have a headache. If you’re skeptical on this, you try it. However, one partner who is in good mood should be good at stimulating in order for the other partner to be aroused.

German researchers conducted a study on this subject in 2013. According to their findings, 60% of the participants with migraines and 30% of with cluster headaches experience a partial or total pain relief while having sex during a headache episode. In a different study, researchers found that women who stimulated their G-Spot experienced an increased their pain threshold. According to some experts, the relief of pain during sex is due to the effect of oxytocin3 also known as the love hormone.

Temporary Memory Loss

So far, we know that sex makes us feel good. However, there’s also a negative effect called global transient amnesia. This condition is a sudden loss of memory, but it’s temporary. One weird thing associated with this condition is that it is not linked with any neurological condition but can only occur during vigorous sexual intercourse and other conditions including pain, emotional stress, medical procedures, and minor head injuries.

This memory loss can last from few minutes to few hours and during this period, the person is not able to remember recent events and can’t form new memories. There are no reported lasting effects on this condition, and that’s good news.

Sex Is A (Potential) Memory Booster

Sex is truly a mystery. It makes us feel good and in certain cases can result to temporary memory loss. However, sex can also be a memory booster. One study conducted on rats where scientists found that letting the rats have sex once a day for 14 days allowed them to grow more neurons in the area of the brain associated with memory function, the hippocampus. Another study supported the findings of the previous study, which is conducted on mice. So far, there were no studies conducted in humans. If you want, you can observe yourself whether it works for you, or not.

The Calming Effect of Sex

Another positive effect of sex on the brain is the calming effect. One study found that individuals who just finished having sex respond better to stressful situations. Eben Pagan once asked his audience on one of his webinars related to one of his courses in productivity, what things you can do in order to boost productivity and have clear thinking? This is not exactly the question, but sort of like that. One person wrote in the chat window and said, “have sex”.

This may not have effect for all, but personally, I can confirm this. During times when I feel lousy and stressed, after having sex, there are lots of good insights coming and eventually found solutions or ideas. So, if you’re stressed and your spouse seems in a good mood for making love, don’t ignore it. Instead, consider it! It’s a good stress reliever as sex lowers your blood pressure.

Sex Makes Men Sleepy

Men will like become more sleepy than women after having sex. The reason for this according to scientists is that the prefrontal cortex of the brain slows down after ejaculation. With this occurrence along with serotonin and oxytocin release may be the reason of sleepiness after sex.

There you have it! You may not be affected with all of these effects of sex on your brain, but certainly, you may be affected by two or more and even combinations of several effects. Also know that, in order to have amazing sex experience every time, manage your stress, stay physically active and engage in healthy lifestyle practices.

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