A variety of recent studies have thrown the debate wide open as to whether having sex can actually increase your intelligence – cue everyone reflecting back on their recent exam results… Whilst we have now reached some scientific evidence that sex does have measurable neurological advantages, unfortunately the issue has not yet been fully put to bed (excuse the pun).

The facts:

  • A study on rats showed that sexual activity encouraged the growth of neurons in the hippocampus, the areas of the brain that evokes memory and emotion
  • A Korean study showed that sex decreases the effects of stress
  • Older couples that are more sexually active are less likely to get dementia

One of the most positive studies to emerge, was – perhaps not too reassuringly – carried out on rats, and showed that mating lead to increased neurons in the hippocampus, an area of the brain linked with cognitive functions such as long term memory. However, before you ditch the crosswords and turn to… alternative brain training… the scientists did also note that any brain benefits stopped after mating. Also, the same increases to brain cells can also be achieved through exercise and mental training. And of course, no matter what you think of your ex, the fact that the study was carried out on rodents does raise some questions as to the study’s reliability on humans.

Features sex intelligent article by Jess Cox

Aside from its obvious effects on calorie burning and other past discoveries of sex helping with everything from pain relief to improving mood,  other studies have also affirmed the cognitive advantages of engaging in a bit of how’s your father. To go into surprisingly innocent detail given the circumstances: the brain becomes flooded with oxygen, blood flow increases, and the effects of stress are supposedly counteracted, according to a Korean study.

Unfortunately however, these results are not necessarily water tight, especially when it comes to the long term effects of increased sexual activity. Although statistics indicated that old couples who have more sex are less likely to get dementia, scientists also remarked this could be down to a variety of factors. Furthermore, sex and intelligence are not  linked from both directions of causality, meaning that smarter people are not necessarily more likely to have more sex. Some studies have actually indicated the opposite, as teenagers with better grades were more likely to abstain for longer. So next time Granny asks why you’re still single, your unarguable genius can serve as an excellent excuse.

So whilst sex has not yet been concretely proved as directly advantageous to intelligence, numerous studies have proven that in the short term it can at least be beneficial to stress levels, memory, and other cognitive functions. And after all, we are recommended short revision breaks…

 

Imagery by Jess Cox

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