Study shows regular sex improves the memory of young women

December 5, 2016 by Bob Yirka, Medical Xpress weblog
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

(Medical Xpress)—A team of researchers with McGill University in Canada has found evidence that suggests that young women who engage in frequent sex experience memory improvements. In their paper published in Archives of Sexual Behavior, the researchers outline their study, which included asking young female volunteers to fill out surveys regarding their sex lives and taking memory tests.

Prior research has shown that frequent sex (penile-vaginal intercourse between a male and female) leads to better memory in young men and also in males of other species—in this new effort, the researchers sought to learn if the same might be true for .

To find out, the researchers enlisted the assistance of 78 young women between the ages of 18 to 29—each was asked to fill out a questionnaire and then to take a series of tests designed to measure their ability to remember things. The tests included face and word recognition tasks—pictures of each were shown and then the volunteers were later asked if they could remember what they had seen.

The researchers report that the women who reported having the most frequent sex scored higher on the tests than did those that reported lower sex frequency. They noted also that the improvement occurred for both facial and but that it was much more pronounced for words.

Prior research has suggested that having frequent sex can bolster neurogenesis in the hippocampus, which has been found to be involved in , particularly when it involves verbal communications. Additionally, researchers have previously learned that frequent sex leads to higher levels of neurotransmitters associated with good feelings. The scientists still can't say for sure why sex might improve memory, but some theories suggest it has to do with the physical exertion involved, which causes increased blood flow and a heightened metabolism. Still unclear is whether the quality or duration of the sex (or whether having an orgasm) has any measurable impact on memory retention. The researchers add that their experiments were part of a larger study meant to better understand the underlying relationship between memory retention and various activities.

Explore further: Who has the better memory—men or women?

More information: Larah Maunder et al. Frequency of Penile–Vaginal Intercourse is Associated with Verbal Recognition Performance in Adult Women, Archives of Sexual Behavior (2016). DOI: 10.1007/s10508-016-0890-4

Previous studies have identified a number of factors that contribute to improved cognitive function, and to memory function specifically, in cognitively normal individuals. One such factor, frequency of penile–vaginal intercourse (PVI), has been reported in a number of animal studies to be advantageous to memory for previously presented objects by increasing neurogenesis in the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus. However, studies investigating the potential benefits of frequent PVI on memory function in young women are to the best of our knowledge absent from the literature. The current study thus investigated whether the self-reported frequency of sexual intercourse was related to memory function in healthy female college students. To determine whether variation in PVI would be associated with memory performance, we asked 78 heterosexual women aged 18–29 years to complete a computerized memory paradigm consisting of abstract words and neutral faces. Results showed that frequency of PVI was positively associated with memory scores for abstract words, but not faces. Because memory for words depends to a large extent on the hippocampus, whereas memory for faces may rely to a greater extent on surrounding extra-hippocampal structures, our results appear to be specific for memory believed to rely on hippocampal function. This may suggest that neurogenesis in the hippocampus is higher in those women with a higher frequency of PVI, in line with previous animal research. Taken together, these results suggest that PVI may indeed have beneficial effects on memory function in healthy young women.

Related Stories

Who has the better memory—men or women?

November 9, 2016
In the battle of the sexes, women have long claimed that they can remember things better and longer than men can. A new study proves that middle-aged women outperform age-matched men on all memory measures, although memory ...

Women with early memory problems have better verbal memory than men

October 6, 2016
A team of researchers from the US has reported that women with early memory problems called mild cognitive impairment (MCI) show better verbal memory then men despite similar changes having occurred in the brain. The findings ...

Why men find switching tasks more difficult

November 18, 2016
It has long been known to science that women find it easier than men to switch between tasks. But how exactly their brains function differently in such situations has so far been unclear. Recent research reveals that male ...

More evidence menopause 'brain fog' is real

October 12, 2016
(HealthDay)—Those memory lapses many women notice around menopause are real, and they can begin at a relatively young age, researchers report.

Spatial navigation is easier at that time of the month: Menstrual cycle affects memory

September 21, 2016
It's been suggested that women are better at giving directions than men. New Concordia research published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology shows that may be thanks to the hormones that trigger the menstrual cycle.

Memory complaints in older women may signal thinking problems decades later

October 28, 2015
New research suggests that older women who complain of memory problems may be at higher risk for experiencing diagnosed memory and thinking impairment decades later. The study is published in the October 28, 2015, online ...

Recommended for you

Finding unravels nature of cognitive inflexibility in fragile X syndrome

January 22, 2018
Mice with the genetic defect that causes fragile X syndrome (FXS) learn and remember normally, but show an inability to learn new information that contradicts what they initially learned, shows a new study by a team of neuroscientists. ...

Epilepsy linked to brain volume and thickness differences

January 22, 2018
Epilepsy is associated with thickness and volume differences in the grey matter of several brain regions, according to new research led by UCL and the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

Research reveals atomic-level changes in ALS-linked protein

January 18, 2018
For the first time, researchers have described atom-by-atom changes in a family of proteins linked to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a group of brain disorders known as frontotemporal dementia and degenerative diseases ...

Fragile X finding shows normal neurons that interact poorly

January 18, 2018
Neurons in mice afflicted with the genetic defect that causes Fragile X syndrome (FXS) appear similar to those in healthy mice, but these neurons fail to interact normally, resulting in the long-known cognitive impairments, ...

How your brain remembers what you had for dinner last night

January 17, 2018
Confirming earlier computational models, researchers at University of California San Diego and UC San Diego School of Medicine, with colleagues in Arizona and Louisiana, report that episodic memories are encoded in the hippocampus ...

Recording a thought's fleeting trip through the brain

January 17, 2018
University of California, Berkeley neuroscientists have tracked the progress of a thought through the brain, showing clearly how the prefrontal cortex at the front of the brain coordinates activity to help us act in response ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

1 / 5 (1) Dec 05, 2016
So basically their saying that exercise is good for you. Yeah I will be going to the gym, not having sex with random strangers.
5 / 5 (1) Dec 06, 2016
Perhaps those who report less frequent sex do so because of their poorer memory?
not rated yet Dec 06, 2016
The article never encouraged folks to have sex with strangers. Hope I do not have to seek a different Starbucks cuz' my barrista forgot to know how to make coffee. That said, the article makes sense! What a person does not use, he/she loses. Healthy sex also helps generate hormones that keep us healthy.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.