Here’s How Often Your Brain Needs Sex, Says Science

A recent psychology study says if you slip between the sheets regularly, your brain health could see surprising benefits. A cognitive psychologist explains the possible effect.

Word puzzles are hot right now, but recent research suggests that sharpening your memory and brain health could come from another kind of play. Research into the unexpected health benefits of sex continues…and one study in recent years that was published in The Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological and Social Sciences revealed that older adults who had sex every week scored higher on tests of mental challenges, including language.

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The study, out of the universities of Coventry and Oxford in the United Kingdom, involved 73 people (28 men and 45 women) between the ages of 50 and 83. Each participant answered questions on how often, on average, they engaged in sexual activity over the past 12 months (never, weekly, or monthly) and general health and lifestyle topics. They also took part in a standardized test that the researchers reported is typically used to measure different patterns of brain function in older adults, focusing on attention, memory, fluency, language, and visuospatial ability.

Participants who engaged in weekly sexual activity scored the highest in the tests focusing on verbal fluency and visuospatial ability (one gave participants 60 seconds to name as many animals as possible, while another asked them to draw a clock face from memory). This suggested that frequency of sexual activity was not linked to attention, memory or language. In those tests, participants’ scores showed no link to how often they had sex.

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The study built on previous research which found that older adults who were sexually active scored higher on cognitive tests than those who were not sexually active. However, the recent research was more specific in terms of how often the participants engaged in sexual activity.

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“We can only speculate whether this is driven by social or physical elements—but an area we would like to research further is the biological mechanisms that may influence this,” says lead researcher Hayley Wright, MD, a cognitive psychologist at Coventry University’s Centre for Research in Psychology, Behavior, and Achievement. “Every time we do another piece of research we are getting a little bit closer to understanding why this association exists at all, what the underlying mechanisms are, and whether there is a ’cause and effect’ relationship between sexual activity and cognitive function in older people. People don’t like to think that older people have sex—but we need to challenge this conception at a societal level and look at what impact sexual activity can have on those aged 50 and over, beyond the known effects on sexual health and general well-being.”

In the interest of making you smarter every day, check out these natural ways to boost libido.

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Miranda Manier
Miranda is the Associate Editor for TheHealthy.com and The Healthy section of Reader's Digest magazine. Previously, Miranda was a producer at WNIT, the PBS affiliate in South Bend, Indiana; and the producer in residence for Minneapolis TV news KARE 11, where she won an Upper Midwest Regional Emmy Award for producing gavel-to-gavel coverage of the Derek Chauvin trial. Miranda also interned at Chicago’s PBS station, WTTW, and worked as the managing editor at the Columbia Chronicle at Columbia College. Outside of work, Miranda enjoys acting, board games, and trying her hand at a good vegan dessert recipe. She also loves talking about TV—so tell her what you’re watching!