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It has been known for quite some time that exercise promotes neurogenesis, but now a study by Leuner, Glasper, and Gould, published by PLo S ONE this month, claims that the most intimate form of exercise - sexual activity - can produce the same effects. A lot of bloggers have been buzzing about this study for a few days now. Who doesn't want to hear that lots of sex is beneficial on multiple cognitive levels?
And better yet- having multiple, repeated sexual experiences results in a greater positive effect than a single experience alone. I can practically hear the cheers rising up from college campuses everywhere.
Here's a question to ponder: If sex makes you smarter via changes in synaptic strength following the act, can you get the same benefit from virtual sex, as long as your brain is convinced it is real at the time?
I'll discuss this idea in a bit, but first let's look at the methods and the data from the actual study.
From the abstract:"Aversive stressful experiences are typically associated with increased anxiety and a predisposition to develop mood disorders.
Negative stress also suppresses adult neurogenesis and restricts dendritic architecture in the hippocampus, a brain region associated with anxiety regulation.
The effects of aversive stress on hippocampal structure and function have been linked to stress-induced elevations in glucocorticoids.
Normalizing corticosterone levels prevents some of the deleterious consequences of stress, including increased anxiety and suppressed structural plasticity in the hippocampus."Previous studies have shown that high stress levels have a negative impact on learning and memory. I have stated before, namely in my recent presentation at the H+ Summit, that some amount of stress, of a specific type, can actually be good for you, and can improve your cognitive functioning.