Five Crazy Things Sex Does To Your Brain

by Sara Suchy Editor

Birds do it, bees do it and so do humans. But what does sex do to the human brain? A whole lot, it turns out.

male face closeup

How Women See Men

Scientists found that women’s brains respond to male faces differently based on where the woman is in her menstrual cycle.

Twelve heterosexual women ages 23 to 28 were shown 256 photos of male faces that varied in facial masculinity and sexual risk.

Researchers measured the women’s brain activity with an fMRI scanner while they were viewing the photos--once when they were ovulating and again at another point in their cycle.

touching face

The More Sensitive Sex

According to the findings, women who were ovulating were more sensitive to face-processing and the areas of the brain associated with reward were more active.

Meanwhile, areas of the brain associated with cognitive control and inhibition were less active when women were ovulating.

Source: Science Daily

mother and baby

Your Brain Wants a Baby

Scientists at the University of Saskatchewan have discovered a chemical in male semen that prompts the female brain to prompt ovulation.

The chemical, coined ‘ovulation-inducing factor’ (OIF) is found in the semen of all mammals tested by the scientists and appears to be akin to nerve growth factor (NGF) proteins, which assist in the growth, maintenance and survival of nerve cells.

human egg

Who Knew?

When the OIF/NGF proteins are introduced in the female body, they act as a hormonal signal through the hypothalamus in the brain and the pituitary gland.

These signals trigger a sequence of hormonal processes that prompt the ovaries to release an egg to be fertilized.

“The idea that a substance in mammalian semen has a direct effect on the female brain is a new one," said Gregg Adams, who led the research team.

Source: Science Daily

teenage makeout

The Teenage Brain on Sex

A study found that people who have sex during their adolescent years might be more susceptible to emotional problems in their adult years. Researchers monitored male hamsters that were sexually active at different life stages and a group that was not sexually active at all. The groups of sexually active hamsters showed an increase in anxiety and depressive-like behaviors compared to the hamsters that did not have sex.

worried teen

Impact on Developing Brain

Research suggests the adverse reactions can appear in humans because the nervous system of adolescents is still developing. As the nervous system develops, its responses are in a constant state of flux and some of those changes, are preparations for adult reproductive behaviors and physiology.

In this stage, the brain can interpret sexual activity as a stressor, which could negatively affect brain development.


Love and Lust Working Together

An international study created a brain map showing how the regions associated with love and with sex are connected.

Researchers compiled and analyzed more than 20 studies examining the brain activity of subjects engaging in activities meant to arouse either romantic love or sexual desire.

They found that while the two distinctive feelings activate different regions of the brain, those areas work together to track the progression of sexual desire to love.


The Heart of the Matter

The area of the striatum that is activated by sexual desire is also activated by any actions that are pleasurable. The same area of the striatum is stimulated when a person eats food and when a person has sex.

Meanwhile, the area of the brain activated by feelings of romance is also responsible for assigning value to pleasurable activities. So this part of the brain assigns a high value to sex, and can eventually morph the pleasurable feelings into love.

cuddling in bed

Stay (Awake) Just a Little Bit Longer

Research shows that people whose partners fall asleep immediately after sex had stronger desires for post-coital cuddling.

The findings were based on an anonymous online survey that asked 456 participants about their experiences and desires with their partners after sex.

Sara Suchy
Meet Our Writer
Sara Suchy

Sara is a former editor for HealthCentral.