Despite that episode of Seinfeld in which George Costanza has a surge of cognitive function after abstaining from sex, scientists seem to think getting busy is actually what boosts brainpower.
Research shows that people who have lust on the brain perform better when presented with analytical problem solving assignments. What’s more, scientists have also found that sex bolsters brain growth and can reduce depression.
Recently, Dr. Jens Forster of the University of Amsterdam led a study in which participants were presented with a series of critical thinking problems. Forster found that lustfully-minded subjects performed better than participants who didn’t have sex on the brain.
In Jesse Bering‘s book, Why Is the Penis Shaped Like That? And Other Reflections on Being Human, he references this research and also discusses studies performed by Gordon Gallup, a psychologist at the University of Albany.
According to Bering, a “snapshot” of Gallup’s recent research shows that “semen-exposed women perform better on concentration and cognitive tasks.” Interestingly, Gallup’s findings support a Princeton study that measured the cognitive function of sexually active rats.
In the Princeton experiment, scientists introduced adult male rats to sexually receptive female rats. Researchers then compared the brain function of the sexually active rats to that of virgin rats. The results? The sexually active rats experienced a growth in brain cells.
But Gallup’s research is a bit different, as he’s not just studying the health benefits of sex, but semen in particular. And his research, while valid, has not been without controversy.
In 2002, Gallup attracted media attention when he studied the mood-enhancing chemicals in semen. Bering lists these in his book:
“Perhaps the most striking of these compounds is the bundle of mood-enhancing chemicals in semen. Such anxiolytic chemicals include, but are by no means limited to, cortisol (known to increase affection), estrone (which elevates mood), prolactin (a natural antidepressant), oxytocin (also elevates mood), thyrotropin-releasing hormone (another antidepressant), melatonin (a sleep-inducing agent), and even serotonin (perhaps the best-known antidepressant neurotransmitter).”
With this knowledge, Gallup studied the antidepressant properties of semen and found that women who had regular unprotected sex indeed showed less depressive symptoms than those who used condoms. After the study was released, Gallup clarified: “I want to make it clear that we are not advocating that people abstain from using condoms, clearly an unwanted pregnancy or a sexually transmitted disease would more than offset any advantageous psychological effects of semen.”
In short, the consequences of unprotected sex are probably not worth it.
Getting back to sex and intelligence, this is an area that seems to intrigue scientists. In yet another experiment, German sex researcher Warner Habermehl also found that sexual activity stimulates the brain. He conducted a study among college students and discovered that participants who were having regular sex registered far more brain activity than those who weren’t. The findings led Habermehl to assert:
“Sex makes you more intelligent in that experiences are collected that can be used later on in areas of your life not linked to sex.”
Good news for the sexually active among us. Just remember: Smart sex is safe sex.
Kristin Wong – MSN LIVING