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Life Arts

This is your brain on SEX

By       Message Christopher Rice     Permalink
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The biggest difference between the male and female brain is that men have asexual pursuit area that is 2.5 times larger than the one in the female brain. Not only that, but beginning in their teens, they produce 20 to 25-fold more testosterone than they did during pre-adolescence.

If testosterone were beer, a 9-year-old boy would be getting the equivalent of a cup a day. But a 15-year-old would be getting the equivalent of nearly two gallons a day. This fuels their sexual engines and makes it impossible for them to stop thinking about female body parts and sex.

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All thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations you have correlate to specific nerve cells being activated. Orgasm, like all experiences, is brought about by electric impulses flowing along paths of connected nerve cells. Orgasm happens when specific pleasure pathways are turned on, while your defense pathways are turned off. All this happens by means of chemical messengers and the nerve cell receptors they bind to.

The limbic system is the seat of emotions, drives, impulses and desires -- including sexual. It's where you fall in and out of love"or lust. Due to the nature of the limbic system, you cannot will your feelings, emotions, falling in love, or staying in love, anymore than you can will your heart to beat, or yourself to digest a meal or sleep.

The central neurochemical player behind falling in--and out--of love is dopamine. Dopamine is the principal neurochemical that activates your reward circuitry, the centerpiece of the limbic system. Your reward circuitry drives nearly all of your behaviors.

At its most basic, this circuit is activated when you engage in activities that further your survival, or the continuation of your genes. Whether it's sex, eating, taking risks, achieving goals, or drinking water, all increase dopamine, and dopamine turns on your reward circuitry.

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You're not actually craving ice cream, or a winning lotto ticket, or even a romp in the sack. You're craving the dopamine that is released with these activities. Dopamine is your major motivation, not the item or activity.

Dopamine drives us toward eating or orgasm, but the experience of the actual orgasm or eating chocolate arises from opioids goosing the reward circuit. In essence, dopamine is never satisfied.

There's no such thing as a bad neurochemical or hormone, although either can become a problem when out of balance. Dopamine is absolutely necessary for your decision-making, happiness, and survival. Yet when it's too low or too high (or when changes in its receptors alter your sensitivity), it can cause real problems.

Even small shifts in dopamine sensitivity or levels can have profound effects on how you see the world, or your partner.

Consider this: A menstrual cycle is generally 28 days of hormonal dominoes, but some women suffer from PMS often, others now and then, others don't notice it. Same thing with the orgasm cycle. It's there"and we know for sure that it lasts for at least 7 days in men, and for 15 days in both males and females of at least one other mammal. Yet the experience of those going through it can differ widely.

Subtle or not, these changes in our feelings can lead to many of the judgments that couples routinely make: "He's not doing enough." "She's nagging me," and so forth. Your genes want enough disharmony so that both of you will welcome new mating opportunities, whether or not you actually indulge in them. Why? Increased genetic variety in your offspring. There are no sexually exclusive monogamous mammals (or birds), even among pair-bonders.

Most addictions, or use of mood-altering substances and activities, kick in during teen years when we become sexually active. A Columbia University study found that sexually active teens use more drugs. One might think social factors alone lead to this correlation between drugs and sex, but when scientists studiedhamsters, they found that sexually active hamsters were much more susceptible to amphetamine addiction than their virgin counterparts. This research brings us to another observation. Children, or pre-teens have yet to activate thisdopamine roller coaster, and they generally possess a cheerful, optimistic enthusiasm for the simplest activities. Perhaps this is due to balanced dopamine.

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Your limbic system is not equipped to understand that there can be too much of a good thing. It just keeps rewarding you to do the same unrewarding things. A "fix" just positions you for a continuous addictive cycle of highs, more lows, and a search for more highs. Many of us spend much of our sex lives caught in this cycle--with no obvious way out.

Humans, like virtually all mammals, are not naturally monogamous. This may not sound very romantic, but no mammals are sexually exclusive. (A few, such as humans, are socially monogamous. That is, they raise their offspring together.)

Oxytocin has various functions in the body, such as inducing labor contractions and milk ejection, but from evolutionary biology's perspective, its main evolutionary function is to bond us to our children for life.

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Christopher Rice, author of the "Anarchist Vegan Cookbook" and producer of the movie "Truth, Justice and the American Way," has published articles on uprisings occurring in Egypt, Thailand, Greece, Iceland and around the globe in several leading (more...)
 

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