Tuesday, 12 March 2013

LIFESTYLE: Sex and the brain

Sex may also encourage growth of brain cells in part of brain responsible for memory and learning


HAVING sex on a regular basis could boost your brain power, new research suggests.

Blood tests carried out on people who have recently fallen in love showed they exhibited heightened levels of nerve growth - crucial to a human's well-being and mental alertness.

The researchers examined the blood of three different groups: those who had recently fallen in love, those in long-term relationships and singles.

The first group showed significantly high levels of nerve growth compared to settled couples or singletons, according to the report by scientists at the University of Pavia, Italy.

However, the levels fell the longer a couple stayed together - suggesting clear health benefits during the first flushes of love.

The study concluded that levels of nerve health were 'significantly higher in subjects in love than in either the subjects with long-lasting relationships or the subjects with no relationships'.

The results suggest that frequent sex not only also reduces stress, but boosts brain power. 

Other studies have found that sex stimulates the growth of brain cells in the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for memory and learning

Madonna - who has never made any secret of her love of sex - is said to have an IQ of 140 - which puts her at 'near genius level'.

The findings are corroborated by a separate study looking into the mental health of rats at Princeton University in America.

Male rats were divided into two groups where they were deprived of sex (they were only able to have sex once during a two-week period) or they had sex daily for two weeks.

At the end of the study, researchers found that rats that had been more sexually active not only experienced more nerve cell growth, but they also had lower levels of stress hormones in their system.

And the more sex you have, the more cells you can grow, it seems. Animal studies, published in the journal PLoS ONE, suggest that sex stimulates the growth of brain cells in the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for memory and learning.

Factors such as stress and depression have been shown to shrink the hippocampus, yet exercise and sex counteract this effect.

Furthermore, sex could actually be protecting our brain cells against decline.
'There is some evidence that older people who are sexually active are less likely to have dementia and this could be for a variety of complex reasons,' says Dr Ghosh.
Sex causes increased blood flow to the brain, which improves oxygen levels.

'MRI scans have shown that during orgasm the neurons in the brain are more active and use more oxygen,' explains Barry Komisaruk, professor of psychology at Rutgers University and a leading authority on sex and neuroscience.

'It appears that the more active the neurons, the more oxygen they withdraw from the blood - so more oxygenated blood is supplied to the region, delivering a fresh supply of nutrients.'

But as well as boosting brain cells, sex could also sharpen a woman's mind, says Dr Ghosh. That's due to a surge in sex hormones, particularly testosterone, which can help improve concentration and reaction times.

Relationship expert Tracey Cox, of the online erotic retailer Lovehoney.co.uk, said there was well established research which shows that good regular sex aids health.

She said: Levels of the hormone oxytocin rise about 500% during sex - making us feel relaxed and also aiding sleep.

"Men who have three or more orgasms a week tend to live significantly longer than those who only have one or none."

Research by Lovehoney has also found that people who regularly use sex toys are twice as likely to be satisfied with their sex lives than non-users. - Mail Online


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