From the first caresses to the final slump on your pillow, your
brain is the director of everything going on in the big show. Although
there’s a lot that still remains a mystery, there are some connections
between upstairs and downstairs that we do know, and they’re pretty darn
Researchers at Rutger’s University recently summoned a group of
women to masturbate inside an fMRI machine – lucky gals – in order to
see how the brain functions leading up to and after orgasm. They found
that during this racy sequence of events, over thirty – yes, THIRTY –
areas of the brain were activated, from pleasure centers to regions
responsible for pain, memory and touch. And they say we think too much!
hard to say what the best part of sex is, but for many of us, those
first slightly awkward moments when you realize you both have the same
thing in mind are definitely up there. During these humble beginnings of
arousal, the brain’s limbic system is fired up, setting in motion a
series of physiological changes that increase blood flow to your heart
Sensory and emotional stimuli are also more acutely perceived, setting all sights on the sexy horizon ahead. Thanks brain!
3. Fuzzy Feelings
orgasm, the brain releases an overload of pleasurable hormones which
are then transported around the body. Dopamine, our feel-good pleasure
hormone (which can be addictive) is released with oxytocin, or as it’s
otherwise known, ‘the cuddle hormone’, which facilitates bonding and
those first feelings of falling in love.
Mood-boosting serotonin is the maraschino cherry to top off
this delightful cocktail, leaving you in a euphoric haze with a big ol’
smile on your face.
With more dopamine released in guys and more
oxytocin in gals, our different sexual behaviors can be explained by the
difference in our brain’s chemical concoctions. In particular, many
suggest the prevalence of oxytocin in women explains their stronger
emotional connection with sexual partners.
4. Lights Out
orgasm, you aren’t thinking about taking the trash out, doing your
laundry or feeding your cat (or at least we hope not). In fact, when
reaching ‘climax’ as it’s aptly known, several areas of the brain shut
down entirely, allowing you to luxuriate in your own, spasmy feels.
areas include the amygdala which is associated with feelings of fear
and anxiety, the hippocampus which controls memory and spatial awareness
and other areas of the cerebellum which are responsible for movement
control. This, my friend, you cannot fake.
5. What’s Your Name Again?
we freak you out, this is super duper rare, but… sex can wipe your
memory – at least for a while. Transient global amnesia is a rare and
thankfully, temporary condition where recent memory is lost and
strangely, sexual intercourse is a trigger. More common in people aged
over 50, transient global amnesia only affects around 3 to 5 people in
100,000 per year. Talk about mind-blowing sex eh?
6. Those Facial Expressions…
wondered why during the big ‘O’ many people look like they’re actually
in pain? Well, those same researchers at Rutger’s University found that
at least two brain regions, the insular cortex and the anterior
cingulate cortex are active during both experiences. They suggest that,
as sensations send messages streaming along overlapping pleasure and
pain pathways, similar facial expressions are sparked before being
distinguished in the brain.
That’s why your sexy face… yeah, not so sexy.
7. La Petite Mort
felt sad after sex? La petite mort or “the little death” refers to the
post-sex blues and although it’s more commonly associated with men, it’s
certainly not unheard of in women. The technical term for this is
postcoital dysphoria and refers to feelings of regret, sadness and
anxiety post-orgasm. Researchers are still trying to get to the bottom
of why this happens, but with so many areas of the brain activated
during sex, including regions to do with memory and pain, returning to
normal can be complex for some.
Plus, with those feel-good
hormones dropping drastically after orgasm, many are left in a state of
withdrawal with a wave of melancholy washing over them.
8. Sex Can Make You Smarter?
to a recent animal study, regular sex can actually improve cognitive
function, hurray! Researchers at the University of Maryland found that
when young adult rats (who have a similar physiology to us humans) are
stimulated sexually continually over time, this reward experience
actually stimulated neuron growth.
Rats who were denied getting
jiggy with it had higher levels of stress hormones which actually
impaired brain growth and lowered cell functioning in the hippocampus.
So there you have it, the perfect excuse!
9. Female VS Male
male and female brain may not look all that different but there’s a lot
going on that determines their distinct sexual behaviors.
starters, an area of the hypothalamus reserved for mating behavior is
over TWICE as big in males than females, with twice as many cells. I
guess they really do think about it more! Another big difference is the
activation of an area called the periaqueductal gray (PAG) in women, but
This region is responsible for suppressing pain, and
combined with the shutdown of other areas of the female brain, explain
that wonderful numbness we experience during orgasm.
So next time
you fall back on your pillow after a sexy sesh, give your brain a
resounding round of applause. The Beethoven of the bedroom has just
conducted quite the overture, managing everything from your heart rate
to your blood pressure, processing all your emotions, sensations and
registering every spark of chemical electricity. Bravo!