Can sex improve your memory?

What exactly happens to our brains when we have sex?

The limbic system activates and other parts of the cerebral cortex that govern reasoning shut down. Two areas seem to shut off or cool down for women: social judgment and awareness, and self-awareness and self-inhibition. This “neural disinhibition” helps women orgasm and may lead to out-of-body experiences, according to Nicole Prause, PhD.

The brain also releases many chemicals including oxytocin, vasopressin, serotonin, and norepinephrine.

These hormones and chemicals have an influence on bonding, pain relief, mood, arousal, sleepiness, heartbeat, and the nervous system.

A 2018 study in the Archives of Sexual Behavior found that sex could even improve your memory when you’re older. They studied more than 6,000 adults over 50. The researchers also found overall improved cognitive function, including verbal and visual fluency, language, and spatial ability.

Additionally, a 2016 study by researchers at McGill University found that sex helps with nervous tissue growth in the hippocampus, the part of the brain that controls emotions, memory, and the nervous system.

Post-Sex Blues

However, sex can also cause a phenomenon called post-sex blues or postcoital dysphoria (PCD); instead of feeling relaxed or joyful, some people feel sad, anxious, or angry after sex even if the interaction was loving. The causes remain largely unknown – it could be related to past traumatic events, but biological predispositions can’t be eliminated as a possible cause.

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

The Big O

Having an orgasm stimulates areas of the brain that are stimulated during other pleasurable activities – the same areas light up during a dessert indulgence, gambling, drug use, and listening to your favorite song. Orgasms and pain actually activate some of the same areas of the brain as well, which may explain why some people derive sexual pleasure from pain. Also, the hormones that are released make the body less sensitive to pain so that butt-smack might sting less!