New research published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior suggests that frequency of sex and improved memory are linked in young women.
“Previous experimentally controlled rodent studies had shown a relationship between frequency of sexual experience and memory function. We wanted to see whether this relationship held up in humans, which is how we became interested in this topic,” the study’s corresponding author, neuroscientist Larah Maunder of McGill University, told PsyPost.
In the study, 78 female undergraduate students (aged 18–29) completed a memory recognition test before filling out a survey assessing demographic information, GPA, menstrual cycle phase, use of oral contraceptives, aspects of intimacy and sexual behavior, and exercise. The computerized memory test required the women to distinguish previously presented faces and words from new faces and words.
The researchers found that frequency of penile-vaginal intercourse was positively associated with memory recognition of abstract words but not of faces. In other words, women who reported more penile-vaginal intercourse tended to have a better ability to recognize words they had previously seen.
“This is an interesting observation that warrants further study,” Maunder told PsyPost. “Future experiments which might be able to control some of the here assessed variables more systematically might eventually be able to tell us the direct effects of varying amounts of sexual behaviour on memory function.”
It is unclear whether sex improves memory, better memory leads to more sex, or if there is a third factor that accounts for the association between memory and sex.
“As the study is correlational, it doesn’t prove cause and effect. What future studies will have to add is the origin of this finding, and indeed whether there is a causal relationship,” Maunder explained.
However, the researchers said that sex could improve memory by stimulating the creation of new neurons in the hippocampus, a region of the brain associated with memory and learning.
[T]he results from animal studies allow for the formulation of the hypothesis that frequent sexual intercourse may be beneficially associated with memory function in humans,” the researchers wrote in their study. “If a comparable biological process to that which occurs in sexually active rodents also takes place in human adults, it is possible to hypothesize that more frequent PVI [penile-vaginal intercourse] may be linked to increased neurogenesis in the hippocampus and superior hippocampus dependent memory performance.”
The study, “Frequency of Penile–Vaginal Intercourse is Associated with Verbal Recognition Performance in Adult Women“, was also co-authored by Dorothe’e Schoemaker and Jens C. Pruessner.