Love Grows the Brain

 Posted by on April 25, 2011
Apr 252011

By T.M. Bernard

The study of sexuality really is the domain of slightly nerdy types who love science, neurobiology and consciousness especially. And while we still have much to learn about how our brains operate and respond when in love, experiencing pleasure, or having sex, for example, researchers have discovered something quite remarkable. Making love regenerates the brain.

This is important to know because just a few decades ago, modern science didn’t believe we could do this. Plasticity – a term used to describe the brains ability to grow, adapt and regenerate – was thought to diminish over time. Young brains are more nimble and better equipped to handle brain traumas in particular, or so the prevailing theory went, because they are still growing. After a certain point (age), the brain’s ‘plasticity’ hardens up.

Now we know that it isn’t such a cut and dry scenario, and our ever-evolving understanding of our brains on sex gives us another wonderful reason to knanoodle under the covers beyond the obvious. Hong Kong researchers – those folks are having too much fun! – found critical areas of the brain benefit from exercise and sexual behaviors.

The central nervous system cell regeneration, more formally known as ‘neurogenesis,’ is described as a, ‘spectacular event,’ that can be used to determine how medicine treats certain diseases and or understanding of aging, sexual behaviors and psychological health, suggested one of the lead authors.

One area getting attention is known as the hippocampus, a brain structure that is involved in memory and emotional regulation. How the hippocampus actually works is still a mystery, but stress, depression, and post-traumatic brain injury can shrink it. This latest discover shows how exercise, reproduction and sexual activities increase the plasticity of the hippocampus.

Of course there’s still a lot we don’t yet know about the brain-mind-body-stress-sex junction; but the implication of regenerating the brain is bigger than just understanding how our brains work.

”The potential importance of neurogenesis in sexual behavior, sexual cues and reproductive function has provided new insights,” explained one scientist involved in the research. ”These insights might provide a better understanding of sexual dysfunction, sexual disorders and normal sexual functioning.”

In other words, if sex can help the brain regenerating, what can we determine about our sexuality by the structure, function and activity of our brain? What role does sexuality play in our mental and emotional wellbeing that’s modulated by the brain? And what about sex and consciousness? There’s a possible aspect of mindfulness in research that shows how making love can serve functions for humanity beyond procreation or physical pleasure. It’s the stuff that excites science geeks and lovers alike, who would welcome a future that includes more physical love and less stress. Imagine these doctor’s orders: Make Love 3x a week, see me in a month. That’s a prescription for health, if we’ve ever read one.

  One Response to “Love Grows the Brain”

  1. This post reminds me immediately of Mim Chapman’s presentation on “Facts, Fiction, & Myths about Intimacy & Aging”, which can be found on It seems to me that sex and love become an even more crucial part of a healthy lifestyle as we get older. Hopefully, studies such as the ones cited here and work such as Mim’s will help dispel our society’s prejudice against sex amongst elderly folks.