The Durk Pearson & Sandy Shaw®
Life Extension NewsTM
Volume 18 No. 6 • October 2015


SEXUAL EXPERIENCE PROMOTES ADULT NEUROGENESIS

Environmental enrichment and exercise, as well as a large number of natural products can increase neurogenesis. SEX is another way to get it. A study with sexually experienced adult male rats were exposed to an acute dose of sex by having access to a receptive female for one occasion or were exposed to a chronic dose by having access to a receptive female once daily for 14 days. (Over the 14 days, the males were generally given a new female each time but because there were only a limited number of females, occasionally they got one they’d had before, but the researchers say that it made no difference in sexual behavior.) Videos were analyzed for mounts, intromissions, and ejaculations.

The results showed that circulating corticosterone levels were elevated in male rats after sexual experience compared to naive controls (did not engage in sex, but were left undisturbed in their cages), although these levels were no longer increased following chronic sexual exposures. Whereas most stresses that increase corticosterone levels increase anxiety and decrease neurogenesis, neither of these took place in the sexually experienced rats, which were less anxious than naive controls and had increased neurogenesis and the growth of dendritic spines. It was the difference between aversive stressors and rewarding ones that produced the alteration in the outcomes of anxiety and neurogenesis. The authors point to exercise as a similar positive stress that increases corticosterone levels but reduces anxiety and enhances neurogenesis.

The researchers also point out that “neuromodulators altered with sexual experience and known to influence adult neurogenesis, like opiates or dopamine, seem plausible [as possible mediators of the beneficial effects of sexual experience], as does oxytocin, a neuropeptide that buffers the brain and body against some of the adverse consequences of stress hormones.”

  • Leuner, Glasper, Gould. Sexual experience promotes adult neurogenesis in the hippocampus despite an initial elevation in stress hormones. PLoS One. 2010 Jul 14;5(7):e11597. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0011597. (2010).

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