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What Turns You On? 10 Fascinating Facts About Sexual Attraction

Your brain is reacting to stimuli and sending out signals that you may not even be aware of.

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Dartmouth Now reports that researchers in the 2012 study got a pretty novel thing going in using brain scans to predict actual behavior. Female participants viewed various images while researchers targeted the nucleus accumbens, part of the brain’s rewards center. The images included food, erotic imagery, environmental scenes, people and animals. Six months later the subjects responded to questionnaires and their responses were compared to earlier responses and brain scan data.

Sure enough, those who had responded strongly in the brain scans to food images had gained weight, and, says Kathryn Demos, “Just as cue reactivity to food images was investigated as potential predictors of weight gain, cue reactivity to sexual images was used to predict sexual desire.” The people who responded to food images gained weight, but didn’t engage in more sex and vice versa.

This research may help people trying to curb compulsive or impulsive behaviors in the future, Parker writes, because as the Dartmouth researchers explain, “when we are exposed to images, situations, people, or objects that are related to something we find rewarding (e.g., food, sex, smoking, alcohol, etc.), this activates the representation of the reward and stimulates our brain to envision how to obtain that reward. The challenge is that sometimes we encounter something that reminds us of a reward and we don’t even consciously realize it, but our brain is thinking of the reward and subconsciously figuring out how to work to get it.”

So the whole time you’re thinking about resisting that cookie, your brain is thinking about how to get the cookie. Replace “cookie” with “nookie” for our purposes in this story.

To let the doctor continue…

“This is why people sometimes feel a craving or urge that comes on suddenly, seemingly out of nowehere. The authors also noted that although the prefontal cortex does a good job of controlling behavior and helping people to resist these cravings, the prefrontal cortex does not do as good a job helping people regulate their behavior when they’re stressed.”

If the sex you’re having when you’re stressed is safe and emotionally healthy, no worries, but if not, Parker says it’s a good idea to “create a stress management plan. On second thought, create a stress management plan regardless -- it’s good for everyone.”

Liz Langley is a freelance writer in Orlando, Fla.

 
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