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10 Interesting Facts About Your Brain on Sex

It might not look like the sexiest body part, but it really is.

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“But then something interesting happened,” Zuk writes. “The fathers showed a dramatic decline in testosterone compared with both their own single, pre-paternal levels, as well as the levels of the men who had remained single. What is more, testosterone was lowest in those men who spent at least three hours a day caring for their son or daughter, after controlling for the effects of sleep loss and other variables.”

“This study is illuminating for several reasons,” Zuk writes. First off, the same men being re-measured, instead of fathers being compared to single men, allows for fewer variables. Second “it indicates a finely tuned back-and-forth between a person’s physiology and behavior. Cues from the environment can influence fathers’ hormone levels as well as those of mothers. The scientists suggest that while seeking a mate requires characteristics that may be antithetical to being a good father, it is, in fact, possible to have it all, and testosterone acts as the mediator.”

Finally, Zuk writes "As Peter Gray, an anthropologist at the University of Nevada, pointed out in a commentary accompanying the article, the research serves as a nice case study of the relevance of evolution to everyday human life. The trade-off between mating and parenting is one that is predicted by evolutionary theory, and it means that a longing for new sexual partners might not be part of our heritage.”

9. And you thought your new iPhone was fast.

In 2008, doctors Stephanie Ortigue and Francesco Bianchi-Demicheli found that it took .02 seconds for the brain to register a person in a swimsuit photo as desirable or undesirable. At that speed you’d think it would go “zip!” from the parts that process visuals to the higher parts that make decisions. It did go that way sometimes, but sometimes those higher functioning parts started responding very early,  writes Carl Zimmer in Discover magazine. Those higher parts, that handle self-awareness and empathy, might be instructing the eyes on who is attractive and telling the emotional centers how to feel about them. 

Yep: the most important decision of your life might have started as a Quick Pick.

10. So my brain looks, debates and decides, like on American Idol?

Right down to the three conferring panelists. 

Time magazine’s Maia Salavitz reports that in a study done on speed dating by Trinity College in Ireland, male and female subjects were hooked up to an MRI machine and asked to judge potential candidates by photograph before the 5-minute speed-date meeting. The people they thought they’d like and the people they actually asked out matched up 63% of the time to the people they wanted to ask out after the 5-minute date, writes  Stephanie Pappas of LiveScience and researchers found out what part of the brains were fired up during that initial decision-making process.  

First, Salavitz reports, we have a twofer, the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex, which contains two sub-regions: one that judges attractiveness, the other that judges what’s attractive to you, though not necessarily to everyone else (that’s the restromedial prefrontal cortex or rmPFC). The first is what tells me “Ryan Gosling is handsome,” and the second tells me “But  I still prefer Benicio del Toro.”

The people who got the most positive response aroused the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, “an area that has previously been found to react to appealing faces,” writes Salavitz, but that didn’t mean those people got asked out.

Maybe that’s the rmPFC butting in and saying “Just cuz she’s cute doesn’t mean she’s for you."

And that’s why they have three judges on "American Idol."

These are just a few of the ways your brain is trying to guide you through the awesomely complicated world of lust and romance. It might not look like the sexiest body part, but it really is. Which body part do you think came up with  Love to Love You Baby?

 
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