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Sex & Memory

August 9, 2017 Articles
Codependent Relationship vs. Love

Healthy sex is a gratifying experience in many ways and recent research shows that it may also make people smarter and improve their memory — especially among women under 30 and both men and women as they age.

Why do sex and memory go hand-in-hand?

As people age, their brains shrink (about 2% per decade) and memory can fade along with sex drive. However, sexual experiences can reinvigorate neurons in the hippocampus, the part of the brain associated with memory as well as emotions and the nervous system.

But there is a catch: sexual experiences have to be consistent.

  • Long-term loving helps the brain. In one study it was shown that continuous and long-term exposure to sexual encounters restored cognitive functioning in animals. However, when a long withdrawal period was enforced before the final mating experience, the positive impact achieved in prior sexual relations appeared to be negated. The cognitive effects achieved during the sexually active period could not be revived.
  • Frequency improves memories. In a separate study of females and sexual intercourse, women under the age of 30 were tested for face recognition and remembrance of abstract words. Women having frequent sex were better able to recall abstract words, although there was no effect on their ability to remember faces.

Sex Addiction Has an Opposite Effect

While research on sex and memory points to the possibility that sex can help grow brain cells, studies veer off in a different direction when it comes to sex addiction and particularly online pornography.

Compulsively viewing images of sexual experience can have a negative impact on memory. Participants in one study reported that they’d experienced negative life experiences after missing sleep and forgetting certain appointments due to Internet sex engagement.

The study, conducted with healthy individuals, suggested that people who became sexually aroused during Internet sexual viewing had an interruption of their working memory (WM) capacity. The images pulled their focus forcefully in one direction and caused them to miss other information in their environment and in some cases led to poor decision-making.

Researchers surmised that Internet sex addiction can therefore interfere with memory due to distracting addiction-related cues that are similar to those found in substance abuse.

There Is Hope for Healthy Sex

People struggling with sexual compulsions cannot reap the positive brain benefits of sex and memory while lost to an addiction. But they can strive toward them in recovery, as they build the path to a healthy life.

Healthy sexual relationships that involved intimate contact can be a rewarding part of life. It is heartening to know that it can be part of life at any age.

A study of people between the ages of  50 and 83 showed that more frequent sexual contact was linked to improvements in working memory and executive function and that it boded well for those seeking a way to maintain intimate relationships as they age.

Sources:

Pornographic picture processing interferes with working memory performance.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23167900

Sexual experience restores age-related decline in adult neurogenesis and hippocampal function.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23460298

Sexual activity counteracts the suppressive effects of chronic stress on adult hippocampal neurogenesis and recognition memory.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24041775

Pornographic picture processing interferes with working memory performance.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23167900

How Sex Affects Intelligence and Vice Versa

https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/01/how-sex-affects-intelligence-and-vice-versa/282889/

Women Who Have More Sex Have Better Memories

http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/love-sex/women-who-have-more-sex-have-better-memories-study-finds-a7449286.html

Want to boost your mind and improve memory? SEX is the answer

http://www.express.co.uk/life-style/health/630836/boost-memory-mind-improve-sex-life

Frequent Sexual Activity Predicts Specific Cognitive Abilities in Older Adults

https://doi.org/10.1093/geronb/gbx065

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