Time to add another line to the list of the health benefits of sex. A new study has linked frequent sexual activity to improved memory in women. Now that’s a discovery we won’t soon forget!
Researchers at McGill University had 78 hetero women aged 18-29 take a computer memory test that presented them with abstract words and neutral faces–they also had the women fill out a questionnaire on GPA, sexual behavior, birth control, etc. What they discovered was that the more a subject had sex (they call it penile-vaginal intercourse, or PVI), the better she was at remembering the words, but not the faces.
The paper, which was published in the journal Archives of Sexual Behaviour (we’ll have to renew our subscription to that one), followed on the heels of similar studies that showed similar connections between sex and memory in animals. It corroborates the belief that sex increases growth of nervous tissue in the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for memory of words but not faces.
And the presence or absence of a regular partner didn’t seem to matter either–it’s the frequency of PVI that makes the difference, not the type of relationships. Nor did orgasm (or lack thereof) appear to be related to the improved scores. (We’ll wait for more science to take a stance on that one, though.)
As to why this happens, scientists have a few guesses: it could be that sex, as a form of exercise, stimulates cognition, which is something we already know; that sex helps fight depression and stress, which in turn improves memory; or that the “reward” hormones and chemicals released during sex are feeding the brain and making it grow.
We’ll just have to wait for the next study to find out more. In the meantime, we think there are a few experiments we can do on our own. You know, in the name of science.