I have good news ladies! Apparently the experts – and there are many of them these days on every subject you can think of – are saying that the key to a healthy memory is – believe it or not – regular sex, if you are a woman. So never mind Sudoku, crossword puzzles or so-called brain training games; a study has found that women who enjoy an active love life scored better in tests measuring the working memory.
Experts – here we go again – think it may partly be due to the effect sex has on the brain. And if the results are surprising, what’s even more of a shock is that only one of the three scientists who came up with them is a man. For the research, the team of experts at McGill University in Montreal recruited 78 young women, aged 18-29. They were quizzed on their sex lives before undergoing a series of memory tests. The tests involved looking at a group of 60 words and faces, before later being asked to pick them out from a larger group of 90 words and faces. The idea was to measure their short term recall, a measure of memory function.
The results, published in Archives of Sexual Behaviour, revealed the women who enjoyed the most frequent sex registered the highest scores on the memory tests. But the effect was much more noticeable when it came to remembering words rather than faces, researchers said. This was probably because word recall is largely handled by the hippocampus, while other brain regions control facial memory.
Scientists said this lent support to the theory that regular sex bolsters neurons in the hippocampal region. In a report on their findings researchers said:
Neurogenesis in the hippocampus is higher in those women with a higher frequency of intercourse. These results suggest sex may indeed have beneficial effects on memory function in healthy young women. They support the hypothesis that frequency of sex is positively associated with memory scores.
Although the studies only recruited women, previous research has hinted men’s’ brains benefit as much, if not more, from plentiful sex. Animal studies have previously suggested frequent sex stimulates a process called neurogenesis, the growth of new cells and tissue in the hippocampus – the part of the brain heavily involved in controlling memory.
And a healthy love life also boosts levels of feel-good chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters. Earlier this year, experts at Coventry University found men and women in their 50s, 60s and 70s, who had an active love life, had a lower risk of dementia. The study of nearly 7, 000 older people showed women who had regular sex scored up to 14% higher marks in word challenges, while the more sexually active men scored 23% more than their rivals.
With Britain’s population ageing, scientists are desperately trying to find ways to preserve brain function in old age. Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia recently emerged as the UK’s biggest killer, pushing heart disease into second place. The ‘epidemic’ has triggered a booming sale of trendy brain-training computer games to those terrified of future illness. But a recent major review of 137 studies found little good evidence that exercising the brain has long-term benefits.
Until another way is found that keeps memory in good working order, sex seems to be the only available means that can guard us from turning into a dreaded vegetable. So let us bless the Lord for giving us this great gift for which man has so far found no parallel.