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Sex might be physical, but, as many of us know as we get older, it’s much more of an emotional experience than when we first lost our virginity and didn’t know the difference between doggystyle and anal. Since sex is more than just plowing away and sharing a bunch of bodily fluids, we wanted to deep dive into the mental impact it has on people.

To do that, we asked the very basic question of how sex impacts your brain, looking all over the Internet for some expert opinions and/or research that supports the answer. Luckily, we found a good amount of things out there, which we’re sharing with you to help educate you just how much your brain is impacted by the physical side of sex. Hey, who knows, understanding this may make you better in the bedroom, too!

Neurochemicals give a sense of euphoria

You know that feeling you get right before or during an orgasm that feels like you’re just floating and can’t come down from such a high? There’s a reason why it can’t be duplicated every single second of the day — because your brain’s neurochemicals aren’t being set off like they are during sex. These neurochemicals act as messengers that send loads of emotions to your brain, leading to that feeling of happiness and pleasure.

Your brain responds to both pleasure and pain

Speaking of pleasure, because the anterior cingulate cortex and the insular cortex of your brain are being triggered during sex, your response can be impacted, whether that’s coming from the feeling of pleasure or pain. For instance, this is why things like biting, spanking, slapping and sucking cause such arousal. It also explains why your facial expressions tend to be a little bit similar to the reaction you might have to certain painful experiences, like banging your elbow against something.

Your brain and genitals send communication signals

While having sex, your brain is the pleasure center filter, letting us know what feels good and what doesn’t. From this process, the nerves in your genitals actually send communication signals to your brain about the sensation experience. This can happen differently in men and women, depending on the area of sensation, but, when it comes to the clitoris and tip of the penis, the pudendal nerve transmits info to the brain for both.

Dopamine floods your brain

The pleasure center of your brain is known as the nucleus accumbens, and, during sex, this gets flooded with dopamine, which activates and rewards you for all the sex. This is part of the brain is known to be influenced by pleasurable things like chocolate and nicotine, for example, and, when it comes to sex, it’s associated with a rewarding feeling that makes it feel more like a drug response. How wild is that?

It’s like you’re on heroin

Speaking of drugs, during orgasm, the brain region behind your left eye — the lateral orbitofrontal cortex — actually shuts down, giving you a sense of invincibility, of sorts. This area controls behavior and acts as the voice of reason, so, when orgasming, the brain reflects that of a person on heroin. In women, other parts of the brain that monitor fear shutdown, too, meaning they open themselves up to experimenting with things that they might otherwise not think about.

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