5 surprising ways sex affects your brain

The benefits of sex extend to the brain.
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Having sex isn't just a surefire way to feel closer with your partner and enjoy some time connecting with your own body, but sex also has some pretty powerful benefits for your mental health, as researchers have studied over time.
It's true that sex is good for the body and brain, and can have both immediate effects as well as long-term benefits, especially as you get older.
From lowering stress levels to improving your memory, these are the 10 ways sex affects your brain.

Regular sex can might improve overall cognitive function in older adults.
Women who have sex frequently were found to have better memory in some situations, according to one study.
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It's not just your memory that benefits from regular romps between the sheets — frequent sex is also good for verbal fluency, language, visual fluency, and visuospatial ability, or the ability to judge the space between objects.
A 2016 study by Coventry and Oxford universities found that older adults who had sex weekly performed better on cognitive tests on memory and also on attention, word recall, and visual and verbal recognition. An additional 2016 study by researchers at McGill University in Canada found that sex helps with nervous tissue growth in the hippocampus, the part of the brain that controls emotions, memory, and the nervous system.
Women who had sex more frequently found it easier to recall abstract words, proving that sex might be better than studying the dictionary when it comes to keeping your brain sharp.

Sex may improve your memory as you age.

Sexual activity might have a positive effect on memory.
As we get older, brain function naturally declines, with our memories increasingly susceptible to decline the older we get.
But a 2018 study by Australian researchers published in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior found that sex could improve your memory when you're older, with results showing a direct correlation between more frequent sexual activity and memory performance.
The link was strongest among older participants in the study of more than 6,000 adults over the age of 50, suggesting that sexual activity has a positive effect on memory, which has been studied several times in recent with consistent results in older adults.

Male sexual stimulation may also increase brain activity, too.
There's a relationship between male ejaculation and brain activity.

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 — which focused on the link between male ejaculation and brain activity— found that the increase in blood flow to the cerebellum upon ejaculation also plays an important role in "emotional processing."

Sex triggers the release of a cocktail of chemicals in the brain.

There's a reason why sex feels so good, and it's all because of the brain. During sexual activity, a flood of feel-good hormones are released throughout our bodies, lighting up the reward centers in our brains. In 2017, researchers at Harvard University discussed the science behindsome of those chemical reactions, sharing just how powerful they can be.
"Dopamine, produced by the hypothalamus, is a particularly well-publicized player in the brain's reward pathway - it's released when we do things that feel good to us. In this case, these things include spending time with loved ones and having sex," shares Katherine J. Wu, Ph.D., a graduate student at Harvard, adding, "High levels of dopamine and a related hormone, norepinephrine, are released during attraction. These chemicals make us giddy, energetic, and euphoric."
Another feel-good hormone, oxytocin, is also released during sex, with Wu adding, "Oxytocin is often nicknamed the 'cuddle hormone' for this reason. Like dopamine, oxytocin is produced by the hypothalamus and released in large quantities during sex, breastfeeding, and childbirth. This may seem like a very strange assortment of activities - not all of which are necessarily enjoyable - but the common factor here is that all of these events are precursors to bonding."

These same chemicals may make you feel sleepy, too.
You might get tired after sex, and this is normal.
 oneinchpunch / Shutterstock
Aside from the fact that sex can be a pretty rigorous activity, that chemical release can actually make your brain tired, too, leading to that telltale feeling of wanting to doze off into your partner's arms.
"During sex, the brain releases oxytocin which heightens arousal and excitement," as sex therapist Dr. Debra Laino previously told INSIDER. "But when it wears off, it can leave people feeling really tired."

"Oxytocin is often accompanied by melatonin, the primary hormone that regulates our body clocks," added sex therapist Dr. Carlen Costa, noting that melatonin has a "calming" effect on our brains.
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