Regular intercourse appears to boost memory function in the hippocampus, new research finds.
According to a recent study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, sexual intercourse may have some surprising benefits on the brain — at least for young women.
The research found that frequent penile-vaginal intercourse (PVI) was positively associated with a young woman’s capacity to remember abstract words, suggesting that the act may serve as a memory boost.
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Researchers from McGill University in Canada were curious to investigate whether sex positively influenced memory and neurogenesis (growth of nervous tissue) after reading several animal studies that had shown such results.
The team rounded up 78 heterosexual women under the age of 30, and the volunteers completed memory assessments and questionnaires on grade point average (GPA), use of oral birth control, sexual behaviors, and more.
According to the results, PVI frequency was linked with better memory scores for the exercises on abstract words, but this link didn’t hold up for the tests with faces.
"We can interpret this observation as a sign that the relationship between frequency of sexual intercourse and abstract word sensitivity is indeed associated with a hippocampus-dependent memory function,” the authors wrote.
The researchers also specified that it was the PVI itself — not whether or not the woman was in a committed relationship — that had this effect on memory.
Further, the team doesn’t yet have a solid explanation for why this link exists. One possible reason, as Vice’s channel Broadly points out, is that sex is known to help combat depression and stress, which are both known to impair memory function.
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It could also have to do with the reward aspect of sex, study author Jens Pruessner tells Broadly: "The chemicals involved with signaling reward to the brain—hormones and neurotransmitters—have also been shown to be associated with both memory and sexual activity.”
However, the study only found a positive link between PVI and better memory — no cause and effect. Further research will have to delve into the actual cause behind these findings.