Sexual activity to boost brain power of the elderly
Last Updated on June 24, 2017 by Joseph Gut – thasso
June 23, 2017 – According to a new study involving 73 people between 50 and 83 years of age, just published in The Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological and Social Sciences, more frequent sexual activity can boost brain power (i.e., intellectual and mental abilities) in older adults. In simple tests, researchers found that people who engaged in more regular sexual activity scored higher on tests that measured their verbal fluency and their ability to visually perceive objects and the spaces between them.
The study participants filled in a questionnaire on how often, on average, they had engaged in sexual activity over the past 12 months, i.e., whether that was never, monthly or weekly, as well as answering questions about their general health and lifestyle.
The 28 men and 45 women in the study also took part in a standardized test, which is typically used to measure different patterns of brain function in older adults, focusing on attention, memory, fluency, language and visuospatial ability. This included verbal fluency tests in which participants had 60 seconds to name as many animals as possible, and then to say as many words beginning with F as they could, tests which reflect higher cognitive abilities. They also took part in tests to determine their visuospatial ability which included copying a complex design and drawing a clock face from memory.
It was these two sets of tests where participants who engaged in weekly sexual activity scored the most highly, with the verbal fluency tests showing the strongest effect. The results suggested that frequency of sexual activity was not linked to attention, memory or language. In these tests, the participants performed just as well regardless of whether they reported weekly, monthly or no sexual activity.
This study expanded on previous research from 2016, which found that older adults who were sexually active scored higher on cognitive tests than those who were not sexually active. But this time the research looked more specifically at the impact of the frequency of sexual activity (i.e. does it make a difference how often you engage in sexual activity) and also used a broader range of tests to investigate different areas of cognitive function.
Further research could look at how biological elements, such as dopamine and oxytocin, could influence the relationship between sexual activity and brain function to give a fuller explanation of the present findings. Obviously, research shows that there are dramatic inter-individual differences among adolescents in how and when they become sexually active adults. This may also be true for staying sexually active until late stages of life. Quantitative behavioral genetics (i.e., twin and family studies) and candidate gene association studies provide clear evidence for the genetic underpinnings of individual differences in sexual behavior and related phenotypes. Genetic influences on sexual behaviour of adolescents may operate through a variety of direct and indirect mechanisms, including pubertal development, testosterone levels, and dopaminergic systems, and there is no reason to belief that these phenotypic differences will not be present in the elderly. Genetic differences may be systematically associated with exposure to environments that are commonly treated as causes of sexual behavior (gene-environment correlation). Possible gene-environment correlations pose a serious challenge for interpreting the results of much behavioral research. Multivariate, genetically informed research on adolescent sexual behavior compares twins and family members as a form of quasi experiment: How do twins who differ in their sexual experiences differ in their later development? The small but growing body of genetically informed research has already challenged dominant assumptions regarding the etiology and sequelae of adolescent sexual behavior, with some studies indicating possible positive effects of teenage sexuality. Studies of gene / environment interaction may further elucidate the mechanisms by which genes and environments combine to shape the development of sexual behavior and its psychosocial consequences. Overall, the existence of heritable variation in adolescent sexual behavior has profound implications for environmentally oriented theory and research. Similar research may be done on the elderly to further elucidate the genetic and molecular basis of boosting brain power by sexual activity and who might be most amenable for this effect.