Sex may add sweetness and excitement to our nights and days while also easing stress and concern. And, of course, sex has played a crucial role in the survival of the human race. “How does sex influence what happens in the brain?” we ask in this essay.
Sex has an impact on our brain activity, which can affect our emotions, pain sensitivity, and even sleep.
Sexual activity has been shown to have an affect on how the rest of our bodies function.
It has been demonstrated in recent research to have an impact on how much we consume and how well our hearts operate.
Sex has been touted as an excellent technique of burning calories, with scientists noting that appetite is reduced as a result, as we previously reported on Medical News Today.
In addition, according to a 2016 study published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, women who had pleasurable sex later in life may be better protected against high blood pressure.
Many of the physical impacts of sex may be traced back to how this pastime affects brain activity and hormone release in the central nervous system.
We’ll go over what happens in the brain when we’re sexually stimulated, as well as how this activity might affect our mood, metabolism, and pain perception.
Sexual excitement and brain activity
Sexual stimulation and satisfaction have been shown to boost the activity of brain networks connected to pain and emotional states, as well as the reward system, in both men and women.
This led some researchers to compare sex to other stimulants, such as drugs and alcohol, from which we expect an immediate “high.”
Stimulation of the brain and the penile
Researchers at the University Medical Center Groningen in the Netherlands used positron emission tomography scans to track male participants’ cerebral blood flow as their genitals were stimulated by their female partners in a 2005 study.
The scans revealed that stimulating the erect penis increased blood flow in the right hemisphere’s posterior insula and secondary somatosensory cortex, while lowering it in the right amygdala.
The insula is a region of the brain that has been linked to emotion processing, as well as pain and warmth sensations. Similarly, it is assumed that the secondary somatosensory cortex is involved in the encoding of pain perceptions.
The amygdala is known to play a role in emotion regulation, and abnormalities in its activity have been linked to the development of anxiety disorders.
An prior study from the same university discovered that when brain areas were active during ejaculation, blood flow to the cerebellum increased, which also plays a major role in emotion processing.
The activation of the cerebellum during ejaculation is compared to the pleasure rush induced by other behaviors that engage the brain’s reward system, according to the study.
“Our findings are consistent with studies of cerebellar activation following heroin ingestion, sexual excitement, listening to pleasant music, and receiving monetary compensation.”
The female orgasm and the brain
Scientists from Rutgers University in Newark, NJ, examined the brain activity of 10 female participants as they reached the peak of their pleasure — either by self-stimulation or by being stimulated by their partners — in a study of female orgasm conducted last year.
The scientists discovered that parts of the prefrontal cortex, the orbitofrontal cortex, the insula, the cingulate gyrus, and the cerebellum were “particularly active” during orgasm.
These brain areas play a role in the processing of emotions and pain sensations, as well as the regulation of metabolic processes and decision-making.
Another study previously published on MNT revealed that orgasm induces a trance-like condition in the brain due to the rhythmic and pleasurable stimulation. Adam Safron, the study’s lead author, compares the effect of female orgasms on the brain to that of dancing or listening to music.
“In their ability to entrain brain rhythms and generate sensory absorption and trance, music and dance may be the only things that come close to sexual connection,” he says.
“That is, the reasons we love sexual encounters may overlap strongly with the reasons we enjoy musical experiences, both at the proximal (i.e. brain entrainment and induction of trance-like states) and ultimate (i.e. mate choice and bonding) levels of causation,” he continues.
Hormonal and sexual activity
So, what does all of this mean? In other words, sex has the ability to affect our mood – usually for the better, but occasionally for the worse.
When you have sex, you release a variety of hormones that are linked to emotions. This is usually a good thing for our spirits, but there are a few exceptions.
Having sex has been linked to improved moods and psychological as well as bodily relaxation on several occasions.
Because of a brain region called the hypothalamus, we may believe that stress affects us less after a session between the sheets.
The hypothalamus controls the release of oxytocin, a hormone.
Higher amounts of oxytocin can make us feel more relaxed since it has been shown in research to counteract the effects of cortisol, the stress hormone.
Oxytocin not only makes us feel calmer, but it also makes us feel less pain. According to a study published in 2013, this hormone can help people who suffer from chronic headaches.
Another study from 2013 found that a separate group of hormones called endorphins, which are released during sexual intercourse, can also help with cluster headache discomfort.