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  • You're just going about your day, with a lot  of things on your mind. You're trying to stay  

  • focused and get to your next destination whenwhoa! That's probably the most attractive person  

  • you've ever seen in your life, and now your  mind can only think about one thing! So much  

  • for focus - it's like a switch was flipped in your  mind the second you felt that surge of attraction.

  • Most people have experienced  it, but few understand it.  

  • What exactly happens to your  mind when you get turned on?

  • Our brains are a complex combination of neurons  and chemical reactions, and every thought or  

  • emotion that goes through that grey matter  triggers a different combination of reactions.  

  • But few reactions have as much of an immediate  impact as sexual attraction, and it would be  

  • very noticeable - if we were actually thinking  about the science instead of having our minds on  

  • only one thing. This is the process of sexual  attraction, but most people think of it more  

  • as gettingturned onorfeeling horny”.  It can make people act in all sorts of ways,  

  • from stumbling over their words to blurting  out inappropriate things. But before your  

  • brain gets you into trouble, understanding exactly  what's going on might just help avoid that slap.

  • So what is getting turned on, anyway?

  • Sexual arousal is the combination of the  physical and cognitive changes you undergo  

  • when your mind perceives something sexually  desirable. This can be the presence of a person,  

  • or it can be the sight of something  sexually attractive on TV,  

  • on the computer - or even on the printed pageas many teen boys discovered when they snooped  

  • through dad's special box of magazines. As  soon as the brain reacts, the body responds.

  • What changes are you going to feel immediately?

  • The body tends to be pretty subtle with physical  indications of sexual attraction. You'd be more  

  • likely to blush, your pupils may dilate, and blood  flow will speed up - especially to the genitals.  

  • The nipples may get more erect, but those  are probably kept hidden under a shirt.  

  • What might not be hidden, as any guy who suddenly  didn't want to get up from the table can testify,  

  • is an erection. This is when extra blood flow  heads to the penis, making it larger and harder.  

  • While this is useful in preparing for sex, it  can also make itself very obvious and awkward.

  • These changes are nothing compared  to what's happening in the brain.

  • If you asked most people what organ is most  associated with sex and love, they might say  

  • the heart. That's definitely what the companies  making Valentine's Day treats seem to think.  

  • But while it might be more appropriate for  Halloween, it's the brain that's the star  

  • of the show and makes sexual attraction as  powerful as it is. The chemical reactions  

  • it creates when it perceives sexual attraction  affect almost every area of the body. That's  

  • because the brain is in control of the way we  perceive the world - through our five senses.

  • The question of what happens to  your brain on sex is so complex,  

  • there have been studies on  it - dating back decades.

  • It was back in 1966 when the first major work  on the science of sex was published - and  

  • appropriately, it was published by a pair with  experience! William Masters and Virginia Johnson  

  • were both scientists and a couple, and their book  “Human Sexual Responseclaimed that there was a  

  • four-stage process of sexual response. It started  with the initial sexual attraction, where the body  

  • and mind react. Next comes a plateau phase as  the body gets ready for sex. Next is the orgasm,  

  • the climax of sex where the changes are the most  heightened. Finally, it's the resolution phase  

  • as the body returns to its baseline but many  of the changes can still be felt. While their  

  • research has been criticized for a questionable  sample size and too much reliance on the sexual  

  • standards of the day, the basics of how the body  and mind process sex are considered accurate.

  • So how do each of the four stages break down?

  • The initial arousal stage is all about getting  you ready for sex. Some have said that the brain  

  • lights up like a Lite-Brite, with multiple  parts of your brain becoming heightened.  

  • These include the amygdala, the hypothalamusand the superior and inferior parietal lobes.  

  • This doesn't just affect your thought, it  triggers intense emotional reactions that make  

  • you more receptive to the idea of sex and push  most other thoughts out of the mind. You'll be  

  • more suggestible, especially if the suggestion  is coming from the object of your affection.

  • Things calm down next, but  it's the calm before the storm.

  • The plateau phase is where the body slows downbut maintains its state of heightened arousal.  

  • In women, this just means more of the samebut in men the brain shifts focus to making  

  • some physical changes to prepare for sex - like  contracting the muscles for urine release to  

  • create a clean path for ejaculation. And the  body wants to make sure it gets to that point,  

  • so the brain's decision-making abilities continue  to be aimed in the direction of one thing - sex.

  • And the release can only  come in one way - an orgasm.

  • The orgasm is the release of all the  built-up sexual tension, complete with  

  • contraction of pelvic muscles, ejaculationand uterine and vaginal contractions in women.  

  • It can be triggered by intercourse  or masturbation, and the impact on  

  • the body is at its most intense during these  phases. But as obvious as those changes are,  

  • this is also the phase where the impact  on the brain is the most significant.

  • So what's happening to your brain on sex?

  • Researchers have been interested in this  question for a long time, and they've been able  

  • to use Magnetic Resonance Imaging to get a look  inside the brain at the exact moment of orgasm.  

  • The biggest reveal is that while much  of your brain is more active during sex,  

  • there's one area that basically shuts downThat's the lateral orbitofrontal cortex - the  

  • part of your brain that makes decisions  and value judgements based on reason.  

  • That means your brain is saying goodbye  to logic during sex, and much of the  

  • fear and anxiety that usually guides us is  nowhere to be found. This keeps the focus  

  • on arousal and decreases the odds that you'll  be interrupted by stray thoughts during sex.

  • In fact, it seems like your entire  brain is focused on one thing.

  • Your brain regions are usually  responsible for different functions,  

  • but when your body is focused on sex, a whole  bunch of areas concentrate their efforts on  

  • one thing - helping the body reach orgasmThe thalamus is one of the superheroes here,  

  • integrating all the information you might  have in your brain including memories of touch  

  • and movement or any sexual fantasies  you might have stored in your brain.  

  • Your motor functions are focused on moving  properly during the act of sex, and the sensory  

  • cortex that controls feeling in the genitals  is heightened and enhancing sexual pleasure.

  • But two hormones released by your brain  are doing a lot of the heavy lifting.

  • Why does sex and sexual attraction feel so goodIt's all because of one hormone - dopamine. This  

  • hormone is one of the biggest producers of good  feelings, giving you more desire and motivation  

  • as well as a general sense of pleasureIt's formed naturally in the brain,  

  • and this pleasure chemical is useful for creating  patterns in your brain. If things like food and  

  • sex cause a release of dopamine, the body will  remember this and work to get more of them.

  • But another hormone may  have an even bigger impact.

  • Oxytocin is secreted by the pituitary  gland and distributed by the hypothalamus,  

  • and has a powerful impact on our emotionsMore complex than a simple pleasure hormone,  

  • it triggers feelings of closeness to  others and makes us want to show affection.  

  • It's often called the bonding hormone  because it creates a sense of attachment,  

  • and is released alongside the hormone prolactinwhich creates the sense of satisfaction that  

  • comes with an orgasm. For many, an orgasm  is the quickest way to get a strong hit of  

  • these powerful hormones - but they're released one  other way. When a mother breastfeeds, she gets the  

  • same release of Oxytocin as a way for biology  to encourage this life-sustaining behavior.

  • And these hormones affect our  bodies in some unique ways.

  • Studies show that the experience of sexual  arousal actually creates some of the same  

  • positive responses as other stimuli. The pathways  in our brain that perceive rewards are activated,  

  • and this is much of the same reaction  we get when we listen to a favorite song  

  • or enjoy food. But it's also the same positive  response we get when we engage in addictive  

  • behavior like gambling or consuming alcohol or  drugs - which may explain why sex addiction is  

  • becoming a common problem for people who  seek out that positive response a little  

  • too much. One of those reactions isdecreased sense of pain - meaning that  

  • when people say that they'refeeling no pain”  while on a high, they may take that literally.

  • But what happens when the cooldown comes?

  • Thepost-sex glowyou might have heard about  is a real thing, and it's the final stage of how  

  • the body reacts to sexual attraction. The brain  slows down a bit from its previous high during  

  • sexual arousal, but it's still active. Not only  does it keep cranking out oxytocin to enhance the  

  • feelings of attachment, but the parasympathetic  nervous system works at calming the body down.  

  • To do that, it releases the third magic hormone  - serotonin. This is another pleasure hormone,  

  • but in a much more relaxed way. It  promotes a good mood and calmness,  

  • which is why people often feel like  curling up for a nap after sex.

  • So why does the brain work so hard to  make sexual attraction a great time?

  • The first reason is - well, nature wants us  to keep having children. Reproducing is the  

  • only way for a species to continue existingand it's the most basic biological urge going  

  • back to the time the first creatures populated the  ancient waters of Earth. But it's also not an easy  

  • process - especially for humans, who usually only  have one offspring at a time and take nine months  

  • to do it. So our brain rewards us for having sex  and gives us positive feedback when we get turned  

  • on - and conveniently turns off that logic center  of the brain to ensure nothing distracts us.

  • But that's not the only benefit  we get from sexual attraction.

  • There is actually evidence that having an orgasm  provides benefits for the brain long-term.  

  • When having sex, the body increases blood flow to  the brain, which can help to keep things moving  

  • smoothly in the brain and improve the chances for  long-term brain health. So the body and mind are  

  • working together to encourage an activity that  benefits everyone involved - and feels so good  

  • that it becomes a basic biological urge even when  reproduction isn't the first thing on the mind.

  • But what drives this function  more - the body or the mind?

  • The body reacts to external stimuli and that  can trigger an orgasm, but there is a lot of  

  • evidence that the process of sexual arousal is  actually driven as much if not more by the brain.  

  • In the case of people who cannot experience  genital stimulation due to injury,  

  • studies have shown that other parts  of the body can become more sensitive  

  • and be used in a similar way to allow  the person to reach sexual arousal.  

  • Areas such as the nipple or the arms become  new pathways to pleasure, bypassing the sexual  

  • organs. When it comes to sexual attraction, the  brain often finds a way when the body can't.

  • One thing is for sure - when the brain realizes  it's turned on, it wants you to know it.  

  • And it's all hands on deck to send that message  to the body and get you to make that first move.

  • For more on this human impulse, check outWhat  Happens To Your Body When You're Having Sex”,  

  • or watch this video instead.

You're just going about your day, with a lot  of things on your mind. You're trying to stay  

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What Happens To Your Brain When You Are Turned On?

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    Summer posted on 2021/04/19
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