New research points to 14-day recovery & dopamine

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The following article contains very interesting research on the reward circuit and dopamine receptors. We think it is closely related to sexual satiation and the 2 week recovery - what we call the hangover. The related sentences are bolded in the article. However, the whole article is great, and related. [Also see this article on this site: Has Evolution Trained Our Brains to Gorge on Food and Sex?]

The research is on overstimulation of the reward circuitry by fatty foods. However, keep in mind that yummy foods and orgasm are the only 2 natural events that strongly stimulate the reward circuit. Both activate many of the same structures. Both use dopamine and D2 receptors in the striatum.

Both food and sex are the reason the reward circuit exists - to get you to eat and copulate. And very importantly, both are natural reinforcers, not drugs. So the basic mechanisms for both are ancient and should be very similar.

For overstimulation with food they found:
1)The time frame for returning to baseline, or back to normal, is at least 14 days. (We postulate that the post-orgasm/sexual satiation cycle is 14-15 days.) In this experiment the rats were sacrificed at 14 days.
2) The cause for the change in behaviors was depleted dopamine receptors (D2) - as we long suspected to be the central player.
3) Returning to normal behavior occurred as density of dopamine receptors returned to normal levels - again, as we have thought.
4) The drop in receptors was immediately noticeable after consumption of highly stimulating food.

A note - We often use "low dopamine" as a short-hand, rather than go through the long explanation of receptor density and location, and type, etc., but have suggested dopamine receptors as a cause.We will be writing articles on this research soon.

Addicted to Fat: Overeating May Alter the Brain as Much as Hard Drugs
By Katherine Harmon
Rats given access to high-fat foods showed some of the same characteristics as animals hooked on cocaine or heroin--and found it hard to quit even when given electric shocks.

Like many people, rats are happy to gorge themselves on tasty, high-fat treats. Bacon, sausage, chocolate and even cheesecake quickly became favorites of laboratory rats that recently were given access to these human indulgences—so much so that the animals came to depend on high quantities to feel good, like drug users who need to up their intake to get high.

A new study, published online March 28 in Nature Neuroscience, describes these rats' indulgent tribulations, adding to research literature on the how excess food intake can trigger changes in the brain, alterations that seem to create a neurochemical dependency in the eater—or user. (Scientific American is part of Nature Publishing Group.) Preliminary findings from the work were presented at the Society for Neuroscience meeting in October 2009.

Like many pleasurable behaviors—including sex and drug use—eating can trigger the release of dopamine, a feel-good neurotransmitter in the brain. This internal chemical reward, in turn, increases the likelihood that the associated action will eventually become habitual through positive reinforcement conditioning. If activated by overeating, these neurochemical patterns can make the behavior tough to shake—a result seen in many human cases, notes Paul Kenny, an associate professor in the Department of Molecular Therapeutics at The Scripps Research Institute in Jupiter, Fla., and co-author of the new study. "Most people who are overweight would say, 'I would like to control my weight and my eating,' but they find it very hard to control their feeding behavior," he says.

Despite a growing body of research, it has been unclear whether extreme overeating was initiated by a chemical irregularity in the brain or if the behavior itself was changing the brain's biochemical makeup. The new research by Kenny and his colleague Paul Johnson, a graduate student, shows that both conditions are possible.

Bigger waists, higher thresholds.
To see just how overeating and obesity alters the brain's reward circuitry, the researchers implanted stimulating electrodes in rats' brains to monitor their changing reward threshold levels. Some rats were given only one hour a day to feast on tasty, high-fat foodstuffs, whereas others had almost unlimited access (18 to 23 hours a day). All the rats, including a control group that was given no human food, had open access to water and standard, healthful lab rat chow.

Unsurprisingly, the rats with extended access to the high-fat foods ate little to none of their comparatively bland lab fare and quickly grew obese—consuming about twice the amount of calories as the control, chow-only group. The researchers also found that even the rats with limited access to the unhealthful food were doing their best to keep up. These subjects managed, on average, to consume 66 percent of their daily calories over the course of the single hour per day in which they could eat the junk food, developing a pattern of compulsive binge eating. Only the obese rats with extended access to the bad food, however, had sharply increasing thresholds for reward levels.

"This research by Kenny's group is a great contribution," says Nicole Avena, a visiting research associate at Princeton University's Department of Psychology who was not involved in the new study but has completed similar research on addiction and high-sugar diets. Many studies have drawn the connection between excessive food intake and addiction in both animal models and humans. A 2001 study in The Lancet observed a similar dearth of dopamine receptors in the brains of many obese people as in those hooked on cocaine or alcohol. The new research adds a more nuanced understanding of just how food can modify the brain—and shows that differences in the brain from the outset can predispose an individual for overeating.

Engineering an overeater.
To start an addictive cycle, dopamine must be felt, and for that the brain must have ample dopamine receptors. In many substance abusers a low level of dopamine receptors, either from the outset or caused by the behavior, means they increasingly have to seek more dopamine-inducing substances to reach a level of neurochemical reward they can enjoy.

After someone dependent on a substance stops using it, however, it often takes time for depleted dopamine receptors to return to baseline levels. For mice addicted to cocaine, it can take two days to regain normalized levels. The obese rats in the new study took two weeks to regain their baseline density of receptors.

To gauge just how much the quantity of dopamine receptors had affected the rats' eating behavior, Kenny and Johnson inserted a virus into the brains of a test group of the animals to knock out their striatal dopamine D2 receptors, which are known in humans to be at low levels in many substance abusers. They found that rather than gradually increasing rat brain reward thresholds and accompanying overeating behavior these rats almost immediately had higher thresholds and took to overeating immediately when given access to a high-fat diet. This connection, Kenny says, shows that for people who have lower levels of D2 receptors, "it could predispose you to developing this kind of habitual behavior.

"Genetics likely play a role in an individual's likelihood of becoming obese—in both metabolic and neurochemical systems. In humans, for example, one genetic flag known as the TaqIA A1 allele has been linked to fewer D2 receptors as well as drug addiction and obesity. And in the rats there were "occasionally one or two animals per study that didn't overeat," Kenny says. He and his colleagues are currently investigating possible genetic underpinnings of this phenomenon to see if there is a similar genetic marker that could be useful in helping humans avoid obesity. Further findings in this field might help in developing new prevention and treatment possibilities. Counseling techniques, therapy and even pharmaceutical treatments that have shown success for substance abuse might show promise for those who struggle with overeating, Kenny notes.

Looking outside of the current repertoire of treatments might be important, as dieting alone has often proved to be an unsuccessful long-term strategy for people who struggle with overeating. The new study showed that after eating a diet full of sausage and sweets for 40 days—even though regular lab rat chow was available—the obese rats had little interest in reverting to the more healthful diet when the tasty stuff was taken away. In fact, after depriving the high-fat habituated rats of their human junk foods, the rats would refuse to eat their standard chow for an average of 14 days. "I was really shocked at the magnitude of the effect," Kenny says.
"They basically don't eat anything. If that translates over to us as a species, that's a major problem."

Fighting foods.
The sticky part about studying food addiction is that, unlike cocaine or alcohol, humans can't exactly drop it—cold turkey or not. "You can't really quit food," Avena says. And humans are hardwired, thanks to eons of evolutionary selection, to seek high-calorie foods to keep us going through lean times. But with subsistence hunting, gathering and farming now little more than a niche lifestyle choice in wealthy nations, a brain set up to reward super-rich calorie snacks is more of a hazard than a help.

"In one sense, we're all addicted to food," Kenny says. He points out, however, that many of the food items widely available today, say cheeseburgers and milk shakes, are like superfoods in terms of their calorie quantities. "This energy-dense stuff is very new to us as a species. It's probably corrupting brain circuitry," he says.

Unlike rats, however, most people know that many of these high-fat foods are not a wise choice, especially when consumed in large quantities. But many continue to eat in excess of basic energy requirements anyway, putting on unnecessary pounds and possibly reinforcing unhealthful behavior. So the researchers designed an experiment to try to draw a parallel with the rats, training them to expect an electric shock when they saw a certain light cue. Unlike their chow-fed counterparts, obese rats accustomed to the high-fat diet would keep right on gorging even when they knew a shock was coming.

Although the current work focused on high-fat foods, Kenny notes that the full neurochemical and behavioral changes might be due to "a combination of both sugar and fat." Avena and her colleagues have been working to parse out the various nutrients in potentially addictive food products and what impact they have on the brain. They found, for example, that animals binge-eating fats and animals binge-eating sugars experience different physiological effects. "They affect the brain in very different ways," Avena says.

The big one-two punch for defeating healthy eating might in fact be a combination of neural effects from both of these ingredients. And, indeed, the sweet spot for the lab rats in Kenny's study seemed to be the food item that contained high quantities of both fat and sugar: cheesecake. Sara Lee, to be precise, Kenny reports.

Comments

Q.

Some questions.

What causes the depleted dopamine receptors (D2) within the sexual area.

If orgasm, is it one orgasm? No fast rule but it depends on the individual.

What does depleted dopamine receptors feel like? How do we know when are receptors are depleted?

What is the fastest way to recharge them other than by abstaining.

A few stabs at answers.....

What causes the depleted dopamine receptors (D2) within the sexual area.
The cause – orgasm. As far as I know there is no completely separate sexual area within the complex reward circuitry (maybe the MPOA?). In this research they measured striatal dopamine receptors (the striatum). The striatum is definitely a major sexual center, along with the nucleus accumbens. Sex, love and bonding have to run through those 2 major structures of the reward circuit - if they don't light up, it ain't happening. That’s why individuals lose interest in sex or bonding when addicted certain drugs like opioids, or during a post-amphetamine crash – their D2 receptors are depleted.

If orgasm, is it one orgasm? No fast rule but it depends on the individual.
Good question and unknown. I believe one orgasm would cause receptor depletion. More orgasms would probably cause further depletion. How much? - unknown.
In animal studies one ejaculation causes changes in the reward circuit that last a week. In human males, ejaculation causes a testosterone spike 7 days later – indicating an orgasm cycle. Testosterone is controlled by the hypothalamus – which is part of the reward circuitry.

The basic physiological mechanisms would not be different for one orgasm or 100 orgasms, just like they wouldn’t change for one beer, or 10. Individual differences occur, of course, in one's experience of orgasm, and the behaviors and perceptions that follow. Differences may be due to everything else in one's life– such as bonding behaviors; single, coupled; life stressors; neurotransmitter-related genetics; etc.

What does depleted dopamine receptors feel like?
As stated above, it depends on other factors affecting one's life and physiology. It also depends on the how depleted one is. We describe in the book, and elsewhere, the myriad symptoms and perception shifts that have been reported during a “hangover”. Are all these related to D2 receptor depletion? I think more neurotransmitters are involved.

Here is an article on severe dopamine depletion – which should parallel somewhat D2 depletion;
http://www.reuniting.info/science/articles/acute_dopamine_depletion_caus...

One obvious symptom would be the urge to jack up one's dopamine – to make up for the loss of receptors. This most obviously leads to the urge to - orgasm/have sex/masturbate – reported by many following an orgasm. This depletion also leads to craving drugs, alcohol, foods, and any activity that would jack up one's dopamine.

How do we know when are receptors are depleted?
We don’t know.

What is the fastest way to recharge them other than by abstaining?
I doubt that there is a way. Orgasm initiates a programmed physiological cycle that plays itself out.
On the other hand, choosing healthy ways to increase one's dopamine – to make up for the receptor loss – is always beneficial.

I had a question as well

I'm wondering what exactly is a dopamine receptor? I mean, my first image was of little suction cups sprouting off the brain that dopamine molecules can settle into. And that maybe lots of dopamine kills of these receptors, and it takes fourteen days for them to grow back. But then it mentioned that rats returned to balance in dopamine receptors in a couple of days or so with drug induced dopamine highs. So I'm figuring my initial image wasn't correct. Maybe it is more like the level of a certain chemical that can bond with the dopamine and make it "effective" on the brain as a reward?

So, if I get this right, the lower level of dopamine receptors causes someone to overdo it because to get the same reward they have to get more of it. Doesn't mean the dopamine levels themselves are higher or lower. I always through that strange, because once the receptors have balanced out, that is when the lower levels of stimulation will get rewarded easier, so a higher libido drive at least from the reward center's point of view. But at lower levels maybe not higher libido, but more like desperation to have that high.

And, I wonder what the relationship is between oxytocin and the recovery of these receptors? Does it offset the effect, save dopamine receptors from dying off, etc.? Or is there no correlation directly at any rate?

Here's a link to a pic of

Here's a link to a pic of dopamine receptors (cocaine)
http://www.humanillnesses.com/images/hdc_0000_0001_0_img0085.jpg

All images of receptors are "artists rendering".

Receptors are not killed, 'cause they are not alive. They are usually removed from the surface of the cell, then maybe destroyed. Cells can make new receptors very rapidly. In this experiment and with drugs the cell is choosing to keep the number of receptors at an abnormally low level.

So, if I get this right, the lower level of dopamine receptors causes someone to overdo it because to get the same reward they have to get more of it. Doesn't mean the dopamine levels themselves are higher or lower.

Exactly right. It's always the number of receptors turned on, and how long they are switched on - that equals the experience. One could have massive amounts of dopamine, but it would make no difference if the cells had depleted receptors. That's the basis for addicts doing more and more just so they don't experience withdrawal.

I wonder what the relationship is between oxytocin and the recovery of these receptors?

Unkown. Oxytocin appears to increase dopamine, or directly activate parts of the reward circuit. I've seen nothing about oxytocin affecting D2 receptor density. D2 receptors are the main ones activated to create pair-bonds in mammals.

I think evolution

You're right that it would make intuitive sense that cocaine, which forces a higher release of dopamine, would certainly cause D2 receptor depletion for a longer period than high fatty foods.

I try to look through an evolutionary lens. Food has been stimulating dopamine forever. It's why we have a reward circuit.

Maybe - when animals came across plentiful high fat foods it allowed them eat a whole lot more than normal. The D2 receptor decline is associated with gorging and obesity - chow down while you have a chance. Low D2 means its took a whole lot more food to satisfy them.

Think of bear gorging on high fat salmon before hibernating. Birds and animals coming across nuts, seeds, and avocados, and gorging before flying south, or migrating, or a hard winter.
Predators gorging on a kill (wolves eat up to twenty pounds of meat) during the winter.

Why 2 weeks? I don't know.
Cocaine is a stronger dopamine stimulant, however, it is not food - which is necessary for life.
This 2 week lag from a lesser stimulant makes me believe that it's not the level of stimulation, but the type of stimulation. In other words, gorging on available high-fat food kicks in an ancient neurochemical program in the reward circuit. The response is "Eat till you drop." Cocaine can't initiate this program.
This program, perhaps like the menstrual cycle, is controlled by limbic structures, and must run its course.
I believe sexual satiation is also an inducible program.

Interesting

I would have reasoned the same way (cocaine is stronger, therefore the effect should take longer to wear off.) But there must be something else going on there.

The fact that the rats didn't eat AT ALL for two weeks is pretty interesting. I don't think you would see that in humans. After 12 hours or so of not eating, I think people would eat what's in front of them even if it's not that tasty. And humans have a lot lower metabolism than rats relative to body size, don't they? I mean, it's almost amazing that the rats *survived* two weeks without eating. How much weight do you think they lost? If that's an inducible program (stop eating for 2 weeks after gorging yourself) it hardly seems that advantageous.

Maybe

I do think it's a program - that the depletion of D2 receptors would be similar in all rats - but the behaviors might differ.
But I don't think humans or even rats in the wild would stop eating altogether. They might slow down and lose some accumulated fat. Maybe a finicky house cat would stop eating - I've heard of that. Which makes me wonder if they stopped eating because the are lab rats. Born and raised in captivity, and quite aware that their meals are from us humans. Maybe they were protesting like our domesticated cats and dogs might. Well, dogs might not, they will eat anything.

I hadn't thought of that

Maybe you are right about protesting. Certainly behavior of rats kept in tiny cages with only one kind of pelleted chow is not really comparable to that of wild rats... Someone actually posted something recently on cuteoverload.com about their dog who refuses to eat his food if they put it in his bowl. However the dog learned how to open one of the drawers in the kitchen and if they hide his food in there, sure enough he will eat it!

Overall Goals

Gary,

So the overall goal (for happiness and wellbeing) should be the turning on of high levels (high amount) of dopamine receptors for longer periods of time.

Or, to put it in a negative way, the goal should be to avoid those behaviors that deplete the number of activated dopamine receptors.

And, the behaviors that we have found to be helpful in activating a larger number of dopamine receptors -- bonding behaviors, exercise, hobbies, prayer, meditation, etc.

Once depleted -- we are not sure how to turn more receptors on in a fast way (faster than the 1 or 2 weeks) or do you think the behaviors above work to do this.

overall well being

is elusive at a neurochemical level. I don't like stating that the levels of a single neurotransmitter or hormone = well being. Several known neurotransmitters (serotonin, norepinephrine, opioids, endocannabinoids) are associated with well-being (along with ones yet to be discovered).

I do agree that it is a good thing in general to avoid downregulation of dopamine receptors - especially in the reward circuit. Lower than ideal dopamine or dopamine receptors never shows up as a good thing. Reward circuit activity is central to feelings of well being and contentment. Low levels are associated with discontent & dissatisfaction, cravings, searching for something to make us feel good, depression, etc.

However, certain conditions such as psychosis or schizophrenia are associated (theoretically) with high dopamine levels. In fact, anti-psychotics lower dopamine levels, and newer ant-psychotic drugs may be used to lower the number of dopamine receptors.

Bonding behaviors, exercise, hobbies, prayer, meditation, etc. - those things that give pleasure and reward are associated with higher dopamine, and or stimulation of the reward circuit. I've found no evidence that they influence dopamine receptors.

Once depleted -- we are not sure how to turn more receptors on in a fast way (faster than the 1 or 2 weeks) or do you think the behaviors above work to do this.
If you are referring to orgasm or to the fat gobbling rats - no I haven't seen any way to up-regulate D2 receptors. But maybe there is a way??

It's really important to keep dopamine levels separate from dopamine receptor levels when exploring the science and its effects.

Thanks Gary. Wouldn't higher

Thanks Gary.

Wouldn't higher dopamine levels eventually lead to a up-regulation of D2 receptors, for no other reason than the brain trying to accomodate the added dopamine?

Am I correct in assuming that an increase in dopamine receptors allows for a greater facility for happiness or feelings of contentment? More receptors to receive the dopamine?

How about fasting? Or other forms of abnegation as a way of up-regulating D2 receptors? I have often thought about fasting or other acts of self-denial as a way to counter the effects of orgasm or other highly pleasurable activities? My thought is fasting, followed by very moderate food intake might quickly regulate D2 receptors?

Any one have a hair shirt?

Higher dopamine does not mean more receptors

Actually, the effect of dopamine being chronically higher than optimal is that the number of receptors diminishes in order to keep the signal strength from being too high. It's kind of like if you're listening to someone and they're talking quietly, you're leaning forward and trying very hard to hear what they are saying. But if someone keeps screaming at you, you are going to step back and cover your ears just to protect your eardrums. Too much dopamine (or any neurotransmitter, I suppose) is like screaming to a neuron- its response is to take away some of its receptors in order to not "hear" as much of the signal. But if you can imagine after someone's been screaming at you for hours and you're still covering your ears, or maybe you've stuffed in some ear plugs as well, afterwards you won't be able to hear someone speaking at normal volume. In the same way, a neuron with a reduced number of receptors has trouble picking up on the same amount of dopamine it would have been sensitive to before.

As far as I understand it, dopamine receptors gradually return when the level of dopamine they receive goes back to normal levels. You can do a lot to try to get your dopamine itself into a healthy medium range, but I don't know that there's anything you can do to affect the receptors directly. In other words, you can stop the screaming, but you have to wait until your cells feel safe enough to uncover their ears.

this is not about food but i

this is not about food but i know of a dog who will not drink water inside of a house he will only drink if he is outside. animal behavior can be intresting. i had a pup that would not eat anything from fast food places. not chicken from kfc or anything. so from his advice i stopped eating fast food. been a long time sine i ate from any of the chain fast food places. he was a smart dog and his take on fast food i think was good proff of how smart he was :).

Totally Fascinating


All this stuff is really making me think, I've been meaning to sort out my diet and get more exercise, and this has certainly given me some good reasons to get sorted out on those! :)

There is an unclosed Strong tag after the last word in your second post gary btw - after this sentence: On the other hand, choosing healthy ways to increase one's dopamine – to make up for the receptor loss – is always beneficial.

I saw this and thought of this thread, so I'll throw it in http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=can-newborn-neurons-pre... - the bit at the bottom was interesting
"newborn neurons in the hippocampus inhibit the release of dopamine"

Something more to add from Wikipedia - Scientists have shown that physical activity in the form of voluntary exercise results in an increase in the number of newborn neurons in the hippocampus of aging mice. The same study demonstrates an enhancement in learning of the "runner" (physically active) mice.[35] While the association between exercise-mediated neurogenesis and enhancement of learning remains unclear, this study clearly demonstrates the benefits of physical activity and could have strong implications in the fields of aging and/or Alzheimer's disease.

Another thought/question...

From what is said here, it sounds like it works this way (confirm or correct my perception as necessary):

Normal functioning, there is a dopamine level that I'm sure goes up and down slightly in response to stimuli that would affect it on a minor level. And the receptors are able to "keep up" with that level without getting all depleted. IOW, dopamine attaches to the receptors, which I gather ends up stripping them off the brain cell, and I'm assuming it is the happening of that event that rewards us with "Oh, this feels good, I want to do it again" feeling. But normally, since Gary said the cell can produce these receptors fairly quickly, the cell production can keep up with the number that are removed by normal dopamine levels.

But then a dopamine high hits, whether through orgasm, fatty foods, whatever, and the wash of dopamine is so much that the cells simply cannot keep up with them, and the number of receptors takes a nose dive. And somewhere between one to two weeks, once the dopamine levels have stayed low, those receptors are built back up to a normal level.

Assuming that is true, now I'm considering this thought. Let's say you are abstaining so you haven't had an orgasm for a week, maybe two weeks, maybe three. Then the urge hits and you give in. Receptors gets washed away in the dopamine flood. But you go right back to abstaining. It would appear that this has the lowest level of dealing with the after affects. One, obviously it is not an addictive habit at that stage, if it only happens on rare occasion. Two, the dopamine flood is hitting an area that is already well built up, so the amount of receptors after the flood is still going to be decently high.

Now let's assume that you orgasm regularly, at least once a day. You regularly flood your receptors with dopamine, knocking them out. It would seem the constant flood of dopamine would have a greater negative affect on the receptors simply because it isn't allowed to bring the receptors back to full strength before the next wave hits, taking out more. Since it is starting with fewer receptors than the last time, it knocks out more receptors and reduces that number even further down.

So it would seem to begin abstaining from that level means it is going to take even longer to get those receptor levels back to normal, because the constant daily flooding of dopamine has made your brain look like a hurricane has been over your land and wiped out all the houses in the area. So it will take you longer to build back up to a normal amount.

Now let's go back to the person who goes a couple of weeks. It seems from a lot of the comments here that the second week tends to be harder than the first to keep from masturbating. And I'm thinking for someone abstaining especially, it is about that time period that the receptor levels would be returning to normal. So it could be that as a person approaches near 100% rebuilding of the receptor landscape of the brain, that it triggers your body to say, "It's time for another one!" This would be a purely physical response, but it triggers in our brain a desire as well that might not have been there before. Because you're up to full receptor strength, even little fluctuations in the dopamine level results in a pleasant stimulation

This would also show why when one slips up, they haven't gone back to square one in their abstinence program. Yes, it has depleted the receptors to some extent, but no where near as low as when you started after having sent floods of "joy" through the system nearly every day, if not multiple times a day, for weeks, months, or years (as in my case). And so recovery from an "every once in a while" orgasm is much quicker and less of a problem as it is when you've been doing it frequently.

It also may indicate why my method has helped me already, as I reduced the number of orgasms I was having. While I certainly wasn't getting my receptors to anywhere back to normal, the days not doing it gave the brain a chance to at least get some more receptors in there before I tried flushing them out again, and so helped in the recovery because the number of receptors to some degree, may have increased.

Just thoughts as I think through what all this can mean.

Not quite

Encountering dopamine doesn't strip the receptors off of the cell. In fact, neurotransmitters in general never enter the cell at all. It's like the receptors are hanging outside of the cell in order that the cell can know how much dopamine there is out there. The individual dopamine molecules sort of pop in and out of the receptors, and the strength of the signal the cell gets is based on how many of the receptors have a dopamine molecule in them at a given time. If the signal is strong enough, the cell will send a message to the next cell down the line. It's kind of like benches in a train station or something...people get in and out of them, but if most or all of them are occupied at once, you know the train station is really crowded that day.

The receptors will only be removed from the surface of the cell if the cell decides it's sick of the signal being too strong for too much of the time. I would be kind of like if your business had 5 phone lines and only one operator. As long as there aren't too many people calling, the operator can manage everything. But if every line keeps ringing nonstop, you might have to pull out some of the lines to control the situation until things calm down again.

That's interesting

But that doesn't seem to change my original thought there. Obviously, however it works, flooding the brain cells with dopamine ends up getting rid of some receptors. The higher the flood, and the more frequent, it would seem, the fewer receptors you would have. So the theory is that it takes less time and energy to recover from an occasional orgasm, say once every two-three weeks, than it would if you'd been having orgasms every day for the previous month.

That's the part I'm really interested in exploring. But the additional info on how they get stripped off the brain cells was good and interesting, but practically the same result however it happens.

I still think it's 2 weeks

"So the theory is that it takes less time and energy to recover from an occasional orgasm, say once every two-three weeks, than it would if you'd been having orgasms every day for the previous month."

My thoughts are that it takes the same 2 weeks to recover from one, as it does from many orgasms. If a person had several strong orgasms, or lots of wild sex, then maybe the hangover experience might be more noticeable, more rocky, and larger perception shifts.

However, I think the same neural/hormonal mechanisms are activated that initiate a cycle, and a "recovery" - whether it's one or many orgasms.

The fact that cocaine causes a higher level of dopamine release, yet it takes only 2 days to recover D2 receptor depletion, indicates that it's not the level of dopamine released by the event. Something else must be going on.

In animals, for example:
In male rats, the number of testosterone receptors in the reward circuit declines following a few hours of sex. It takes days, and maybe longer, for the receptors to return to baseline, and two weeks for behavior to recover completely.

How does testosterone help to make us horny?: It binds to these testosterone receptors, which in turn cause an increase dopamine. It's a programmed cycle initiated by an event - ejaculation.

In female rats, a few hours of sex kicks in a two-week cycle of prolactin surges. What is the function of the prolactin surges? maybe to prepare the animal for pregnancy. But these surges occur whether the rat gets pregnant or not. Interestingly, prolactin inhibits dopamine. In fact a big prolactin surge is what inhibits sexual desire right after an orgasm in humans.

Key point - orgasm is probably a long cycle, initiated by very specific stimuli and activation of very specific brain circuits.

Thanks

for the info. That does throw some additional light on the idea. I guess I'm still trying to figure out what affects what, what makes it feel lesser in some men/women earlier as compared to later. Lots of factors to consider.

Now approaching 7 days of abstinence, I can certainly feel the testosterone influence increasing. It appears to be increasingly sensitive to stimulation.

short animations of receptors

basic- showing dopamine/neurons
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lCK2uauYkxE&feature=related

levels for food, sex, drugs
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T7KtC8iX5-g&feature=related

overstimulation of receptors by speed
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zmyg1LKQQQw&feature=related

depletion of receptors by speed
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lPeMulytk3k&feature=related

FINALLY - DR YOUNG STATING YOU NEED BOTH DOPAMINE AND OXYTOCIN FOR THE BOND:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4dSCI0c5Rlo

he has a short set of videos on the neurochemistry of love and bonding

Thanks for the videos

They were helpful, and I explored more from these same people on the issues involved.

What I found interesting is the following.

One, it appears the amphetamine usage causes the receptors to "withdraw." It said due to over-stimulation by blocking the dopamine return, causing an increase of dopamine in the synaptic region. It appears it greatly increases the dopamine presence in an artificial way that eating or sex cannot, which is why it is so high.

But it did say that the receptor withdraw is due to "over-stimulation." I guess it is a protective system to prevent overload on the brain's nerve system. But what surprised me is one video it suggested that it can take 6-12 months for balance to return in the amphetamine usage. Which surprised me. I had to back up and make sure I heard him right.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9dB9jKZfw54&feature=channel

But it would seem that the degree of over-stimulation would cause a corresponding higher or lower rate of receptor withdrawal. IOW, would a person experience the same amount of receptor withdraw with sexual dopamine stimulation than they would with meth? Or would one expect the meth over-stimulation to have a greater amount of receptor withdrawal than an orgasm? Or do we simply not know that yet?

Based on how long it takes for receptors to regrow from meth, I would guess the answer would be yes, there is a greater depletion of them than orgasm. It appears Cocaine doesn't cause quite the high concentration of dopamine as amphetamines, and might be why it takes it a much shorter time, but then, orgasms produce less than cocaine but takes longer to recover, so either there's something about the orgasmic release of dopamine that creates other factors causing it to reduce the receptors more than cocaine, or there's something about the cocaine depletion that allows the receptors to grow back faster, like maybe they aren't depleted, but simply stop working for a short amount of time due to some difference in how it reacts. Maybe cocaine molecules actually plug up the receptors much like the Ecstasy drug plugs up the return receptors, blocking the dopamine from bonding with the receptors. Of course, I'm sure that has or will be tested. I just didn't see anything on it, or maybe that theory hasn't been tested yet since it sounds like Gary didn't know why the cocaine takes a shorter amount of time to heal on the receptors than an orgasmic high.

Two, I thought the point that it takes both oxytocin and dopamine to make a real bond to be interesting, and slightly different in the message we have here. Not that you have said it isn't needed, but it seems the big, bad, villain is dopamine highs and the resulting crash and return to normal levels is part of the cycle we want to avoid. But from that video, it sounds as if the dopamine high is part of the bonding process along with the oxytoxin rise and it is the two in conjunction that one would have in a close, intimate, and caring relationship with another, that creates the most lasting bonds, in effect making us addicted to each other in essence is what he was saying.

That would seem to suggest at least four things pertinent to our situations here, if that is true and I'm assuming it is.

1. For bonding, it isn't always advisable to avoid orgasm, that you need that addictive bond which that reward cycle aids in. That would actually be some support to what I was saying in another thread along those lines, that orgasm can be bonding within the context of a close, intimate, and caring relationship.

2. It would appear that in order for the addictive nature of the dopamine high to be effective in bonding, it has to be accompanied by that relationship that produces oxytocin, because that solidifies what one is becoming addicted to: a person rather than the feeling itself.

3. A dopamine high, by itself without oxytoxin, either because the relationship we are in isn't "intimate and caring" and producing that bond of trust on a regular basis, or because we are masturbating and so there is no other person involved, creates an addiction to the feeling itself, which then sends us on the primal urge to seek as many mates as possible because then it becomes what will stimulate us to have these feelings we are addicted to, and so it doesn't matter how we get it, whether through sex or masturbation, or with who we get it through...just as long as we get that feeling.

4. Which points to the negative effect of masturbation on our relationships. We become addicted to the feeling and to ourselves, leaving a partner out of it. We get little to no oxytoxin from it unless it is for ourselves. And we spend the energy that would be used to bond with another upon ourselves, which if we do it frequently, there may be little left to share with a partner. We are so used to dopamine highs with ourselves, that there is no real addiction to the person when we have sex, but rather to the feeling, so less bonding to the person in relationship.

Of course this doesn't address the crash issue, but I think it is agreed when we have both oxytoxin along with the dopamine high in an orgasm, that it has less negative effects upon the persons after the orgasm than if one only gets one or other of the chemicals.

Would be interested to hear your input on this, Gary, and where I may be thinking wrong, and correctly, and any other input that would help here. I find this interesting to think about. :)

some thoughts

Hi Cole
First of all, I am no expert on drugs of abuse.

Secondly, it’s not known if there is a depletion of dopamine receptors following orgasm. I think there is.

Meth vs. Orgasm:
I seriously doubt that an orgasm could down-regulate (deplete) dopamine receptors to the extant that meth can. In addition, methamphetamine causes destruction of nerve cell fibers – that may be permanent. It probably also causes genetic alterations (epigenetic changes) to the nerve cells. When addicts teeth are falling out, it means meth is doing a whole lot more than just down-regulating dopamine receptors.

Cocaine:
Cocaine does block the dopamine re-uptake channels. This causes dopamine to stay in the synapse longer. That leads to over-stimulation, and down-regulation of dopamine receptors.

Ecstasy:
Also increases oxytocin levels.

All addictive drugs act through slightly different mechanisms – no 2 are exactly alike - yet they all elevate dopamine.

So here’s the main difference, in my view, between drugs and orgasm. Orgasm is not a chemical - sorta obvious. It does not alter normal functions – it is a normal function. My hypothesis is that orgasm initiates a genetically programmed cycle that alters several neurotransmitters, and down regulates dopamine receptors. These changes take 2 weeks to return to their previous state. In essence, all orgasms will have the same basic neural mechanisms (although intensity will differ).

All of biology is based on cycles controlled by hormones and neurotransmitters. The rise and fall of hormones, and changes in receptors, are the primary mechanisms for control of all bodily functions. This fatty food and D2 receptor research (above) lends credence to our hypothesis.

To your thoughts - in bold:

“I thought the point that it takes both oxytocin and dopamine to make a real bond to be interesting, and slightly different in the message we have here”

Absolutely not. This is spelled out many places. Our entire thesis is that the dopamine lows (or more likely dopamine receptors) following orgasm(s) interferes with bonding. Why? Because we need dopamine to bond.

In addition, low dopamine/receptors help create the Coolidge effect. We tend to get more dopamine from a novel prospect. Low D2 receptors/dopamine would make us more vulnerable to longing for a novel mate.

“it sounds as if the dopamine high is part of the bonding process along with the oxytoxin rise”
Yes - the dopamine high at orgasm would tend to bond us.
However:
1- It’s the low dopamine/receptor in the following 2 weeks that’s the problem
2- Low dopamine may in fact lower oxytocin, according to research
3- Oxytocin lasts only a few minutes and is highly variable (not everyone gets a surge of it at orgasm)

“For bonding, it isn't always advisable to avoid orgasm, that you need that addictive bond which that reward cycle aids in’
1- Some studies show that dopamine is highest PRIOR to orgasm. Either way, dopamine is quite high during intercourse. Karezza elevates dopamine for bonding (but doesn't send it into "the red zone" like orgasm), and it avoids the post-orgasm dopamine decline/D2depletion.
2- As above, what about the following 2 weeks? and the Coolidge effect that can be kicked in by orgasm? (The Coolidge effect is especially evident after honeymoon chemistry – high dopamine – declines.)

"A dopamine high, by itself without oxytoxin, either because the relationship we are in isn't "intimate and caring" and producing that bond of trust on a regular basis, or because we are masturbating and so there is no other person involved, creates an addiction to the feeling itself, which then sends us on the primal urge to seek as many mates as possible because then it becomes what will stimulate us to have these feelings we are addicted to, and so it doesn't matter how we get it, whether through sex or masturbation, or with who we get it through...just as long as we get that feeling."
1- Love is an addiction. It is the original addiction. All other addictions hijack aspects of the brain structures designed for love.
2- We are addicted to the “feelings”. We seek out objects to induce those feelings. Over our lifetimes the objects (partners, people, things) may change, but it is the “feelings” we seek.
3- We may not act upon the urges to seek out other mates, but dissatisfaction with our present mate is the mechanism that drives those urges.

”Which points to the negative effect of masturbation on our relationships. We become addicted to the feeling and to ourselves, leaving a partner out of it. We get little to no oxytoxin from it unless it is for ourselves. And we spend the energy that would be used to bond with another upon ourselves, which if we do it frequently, there may be little left to share with a partner. We are so used to dopamine highs with ourselves, that there is no real addiction to the person when we have sex, but rather to the feeling, so less bonding to the person in relationship.”
1- The “little left to share” may in fact be low dopamine receptors/low dopamine due to sexual satiation. Evidence points to dopamine increasing the levels of oxytocin, so low dopamine may mean lower oxytocin.

”Of course this doesn't address the crash issue, but I think it is agreed when we have both oxytoxin along with the dopamine high in an orgasm, that it has less negative effects upon the persons after the orgasm than if one only gets one or other of the chemicals’
1- I don’t like using the term crash. Most experience not a crash, but a change in perception of their partner (and maybe the world). This can only be known/experienced when both partners consciously practice karezza, then return to orgasm, then back to karezza.

Thanks for the additional thoughts

All this is very interesting, and I hope more studies can be done on it in the future to find out how these hormones play out or track in relation to each other, along with the effect upon receptors.

I should add on the addiction to a person as opposed to a feeling, I know what you are saying and there is truth to that. But I think if one is doing the bonding behaviors with someone, that is, having an actual loving and caring relationship with another person, that when they do have a dopamine high, whether with or without orgasms, that the addiction incorporates the experience with the person into the addiction, so that it isn't just the feeling, maybe not even predominately the feeling. Rather the addiction to the feeling correlates with an addiction to the person with whom you share that addictive feeling with. And so while a new potential partner may spark some renewed excitement on the biological front, that the addiction to the person with whom you have shared that pleasure with becomes tied up enough in that experience that the other person doesn't as a whole come across as appealing to them.

Though anecdotal, my person experience would seem to confirm that. I've had orgasms nearly every day of my life, but I've never seriously considered cheating on my wife, no one has ever come across to me as someone I would want instead of her. Certainly there are women who are much more sexually attractive than my wife just based on body shape and such, and certainly I've always wondered what it might be like to have sex with someone who has a different body build, so there is that addiction to feeling which obviously I have or I wouldn't be masturbating so often. But still, despite all that, I can't ever say I've had to hold myself back from desiring another woman seriously, or having given it anything more than a passing fancy. But based on how often I'm orgasming, I should be continually depleted of dopamine and draw to every woman I meet.

And I can't imagine I'm the only guy out there like that. Now why that is, I'm not sure. It is only a working theory that I guess we don't have a way to prove, but that is one theory I have that the close relationship I have with my wife and family offsets my continued dopamine depletion I should be under. It might also have something to do with those new neurotransmiters, (which would still point to the close relationship). Or maybe its something else that is the source of that difference. Yet, it is there for me and I imagine others.

Hopefully I'll find out more when I go for a month without, and maybe I'll be able then to identify at least for me, what the differences are, if any.

But it will be cool when we can actually measure the levels of these chemicals in the brain before, during, and after, along with the receptors, and see how they differ, if they do, from individual to individual.

more

We are not saying that everyone falls out of love - of course not. The present scientific theory is that after the honeymoon neurochemistry wears off, lucky couples settle into a more oxytocin-based bond. This appears to be your experience. Oxytocin acts on the reward center when you interact with your partner - thus your partner is rewarding.

As stated in the book, there are outliers: couples who may not experience much of a fallout from orgasm. But I insist that a couple does not know until they (both of them) sincerely experiment with both approaches. This hangover is surprisingly sneaky, and manifests in many unexpected ways.

Step back into evolution - our hunter-gatherer past, then further into our ancestors' past – the mammals.
If this 2 week post-orgasm cycle exists (depleted D2 receptors, along with other neurochemical changes) what would be its purpose, and how might it show up?

Humans: For your genes, the ideal outcome would be for you to be bonded to the mother/father of your children AND fool around on the side. Two parents to take care of the kids, but hopefully additional offspring with another. Sexual monogamy leads to extinction.

So here is where the low dopamine/D2 receptors play their part:
1- Activating the Coolidge Effect (more dopamine from a new prospect) and interest in novel mates
2- Wanting to do something to jack-up your dopamine – have more sex

Our choices -
A mammal's choice: screw someone new
A primate's choice: screw someone new, or maybe masturbate (fantasize?)
A hunter-gatherer's choice: screw someone new, or maybe masturbate as they fantasize about the new prospect.

Key point - screwing someone new is the purpose of low D2/dopamine. Our mammal ancestors' only choice. Genetic variety.

Humans can masturbate and fantasize - which fools our primitive brain into believing we are having sex with a novel mate. Aha – a rather recent evolutionary addition tacked onto the old mammalian program. So if you are masturbating to fantasy, then you may be experiencing part of the hangover’s effects.

Now to modern man:
We have pornography videos. No need to fantasize. Lots of novel mates that fool our primitive brains. In essence we are screwing all sorts of new prospects, while at the same time (hopefully) sticking with our mate if we have one. Just what our genes want.

(We can also take drugs, smoke, surf the net, play video games, shop, gamble - all at the same time - to jack-up our dopamine.)

For couples, the post-orgasm hangover often shows up as:
1- Masturbating
2- Masturbating to fantasy
3- Masturbating to pornography
4- Couples' sexual desires out of synch - one is horny the other isn’t
5- Dissatisfaction with sexual techniques, loss of sexual desire
6- Couples role-playing to spice things up (pseudo-novel mates)
7- For the spiritually less evolved than you (or the genetically different), poisonous resentment due to the incongruence between fantasy life and reality.

I'm sure Gary will have lots to say

but I just want to point out that some of these issues are addressed in our book...which you have. Smile

I'll just speak to one: the idea that we need orgasm to get "addicted" to our mates. As you'll see in Cupid, we think this is indeed biology's program. Get hooked on a mate...for the honeymoon period, that is, long enough to get pregnant and attach to offspring. Then, get restless and move on to a novel partner and another "round."

So, yes, if you want to be a good mammal, then the neurochemical rush of furious mating is a key part of the program...and if you keep it up, you'll also suffer from sexual satiety and your mate mate will begin to look like Hamburger Helper (to you), or you will look that way to her. (See, Cole, your wife's lack of enthusiasm for passionate sex for all those years may actually have helped keep you together...in a weird way.)

The karezza approach doesn't rely on "addiction" to a mate for bonding, so it doesn't risk passion also driving mates apart after a time. Karezza seems to produce balanced dopamine and oxytocin, allowing a strong bond and rewarding feelings...without intense highs...and lows.

We think the lows are what make couples needy...whether they "need space" or need constant, draining attention/sex, so those intense highs aren't the best glue...even though they an produce short-term "addiction" to a mate.

Mind you, mainstream scientists aren't looking at the possible existence of an orgasm cycle, or the possibility of dopamine dysregulation shifting partners' perception of each other. So they just think of "addiction" to a mate as a "good" thing. And so they think of orgasm as " reliable glue." It's certainly not for all (even most?) couples, at least after that honeymoon period. Humanity is on the verge of figuring this out, now that the brain research is catching up with the ancient wisdom.

Yes,

I basically knew your drill on it, both from this site and what I've read in your book so far. That's why the guy's assertion that one needs both stood out to me. But while the video may be thinking of orgasm as accomplishing that, you're promoting that a "healthy" level of both is needed to produce the bond. And I did indicate that video didn't deal with the after affects of the crash, etc., as you point out.

But it did make me wonder if even the high dopamine of sex, when accompanied by good amounts of oxytoxin, actually "addicts" one to the relationship itself (bonding) instead of just a feeling of orgasm. If that was true, then while the biology might be easily excited by a new mate introduced a couple hours afterwards, the pull of the experience with oxytocxin and trust, bonding with that other person might make one addicted to that person specifically, so that the introduction of another person, though enticing on some level, wouldn't be as big a draw because that's not the person one is addicted to.

I thought it was interesting that the video framed relationships as another form of addiction. Reminded me of Data on Star Trek who would say of someone he missed that he had become accustom to their patterns and he lamented the absence of that familiar pattern of relating.

Anyway, playing with thoughts to a degree here, trying to fit the pieces together into a more coherent picture. Interesting stuff. Thanks for the reply. :D

Back to square one

We finally tracked down the study itself...and the journalist had made an error. The researchers did not look into "normalization of d2 receptors." The journalist inadvertently fabricated that apparently. The researchers actually killed the rats at day 14, which did presumably cure their addiction....

In any case, there's no evidence in this study of a 14-day recovery period. False alarm.

The study does imply that dopamine receptor reduction IS motivation for binging, and the authors say it's the same mechanism that causes drug addiction and other "loss of inhibitory control over behavior that can have a negative outcome," so it's pretty clear support for the idea that porn addiction is a consequence of excess that has led to dysregulation of dopamine D2 receptors. Here it is: http://www.nature.com/neuro/journal/vaop/ncurrent/pdf/nn.2519.pdf And we suspect that in the case of addiction, more than a 14-day cycle is at work in any case. (Delta FosB, etc.)

But as for the post-O cycle, I guess we'll have to wait until someone is inspired to check up on lovers' D2 receptors. It's interesting that rats show a 15-day period before return to full libido. Quite likely D2s play a role in that, but we don't have proof yet.

So,

we've discovered one sure-fire way of ending the addictive cycle. Not a recommended way, by a long shot, but a surefire way. Wink

But I wondered something. (Yep, here I go again, wondering. Dangerous, I know.) Granted, I had weened myself off masturbation to some degree. Sometimes I think I was making up for the days off by frequently doing two the next day. But I imagine the overall count went down. Like, say if in a week I had been masturbating to orgasm nine times, during the Monday, Wednesday, Friday abstinence plan I probably masturbated six times, maybe seven in some cases. IOW, still kicking in that orgasm cycle over and over again as I've done for months before this for the last several years solid, and thorough most of my life.

Then I successfully abstain for a week for the first time in years, but by the end of it I was so sensitive. Just rubbing it sent great waves of pleasure over my body. I know one part of it is testosterone. That's what makes it feel so good. But I'm wondering what the d2 receptor state and dopamine production state was at that time. It certainly felt great. I felt I was being amply rewarded for holding off for a week.

I'm processing here. So bear with me. It appears there are three pieces to this puzzle. One, something that is very pleasurable. Two, a dopamine high. Three, the return pathway created by the rational brain in response to the dopamine telling it "You really need this to survive, get it, it is valuable." It talked about that process on the videos about addiction.

Once that return pathway gets grooved into the brain, then even though the dopamine levels that are reaching the rational brain are diminished, it still desires the rewarding pleasure. But not only is the dopamine being depleted, but so is the testosterone. The receptors for it are also struggling, so the sensitivity dies off with frequent orgasms, and the sensitivity diminishes, the physical craving goes down, even though the mental pathway is demanding more. It wants to keep hitting that switch to get another dose.

Same thing has happened this week. Easter Sunday I orgasmed twice. Twice again on Monday. On the following days, some I masturbated more than once, but I think on all of them I orgasmed one time per day. I might have done it twice this past Saturday. All that to give you a picture of my frequency. As the week went on, the highly sensitive feelings began diminishing by Wednesday. It has progressively taken longer and longer to reach orgasm when I did, and while still feeling good, some times better than others, no where near the "mind blowing" feelings I had that Sunday. So this past weekend, it was decent, but not outstanding. Nothing like it was at the beginning of the week.

Now the interesting thing is, in my past I went through cycles. Sometimes it would be sensitive, other times not so much, or somewhere in between. I always attributed that to my natural cycles. But rarely would it be as sensitive as what it was on Easter Sunday. Sometimes it would be really good, but not that sensitive. So it would seem that frequent masturbation, as one might suspect, not only decreases the ability to feel motivated physically due to the difficulty in getting that dopamine fix, but also desensitizes your body by not allowing the testosterone levels to return to normal. Porn amplifies that effect.

But, it appears that the testosterone levels return to balance much quicker than the dopamine levels, assuming the two-week cycle is correct. Even though I had been having on the average once orgasm a day for the previous several years, taking one week off actually returned my body to full sensitivity and cravings. Just some interesting thoughts there.

Another thing I'm wondering about. I guess we don't know the answer to this, but I would imagine that the dopamine and testosterone levels returning to balance wouldn't be a straight line increase, but more of a half-bell-curve type thing, except maybe not so belly as a dented bell, if you get the picture. But what that would mean is after one week, the dopamine receptors and levels would have returned to more than half of their balanced level. So by the end of one week, you'd still be able to feel more dopamine response to stimulation than you did at the beginning of the week when you started to abstain. For example, maybe you're actually two-thirds of the way recovered by the end of one week. It would explain some of the week-two blues some have experienced. Not only is the testosterone returned in full force by then, but there are enough dopamine receptors back on line to intensify the cravings, reinforcing the mental addictive pathways with physically addictive desire for the already ultra-sensitive to even wind blowing across it, physical pleasure crying to be released from its prison!

And then there's one other thing that I've thought about recently (as if the foregoing isn't enough). One thing that makes me question the dopamine receptor issue is the Coolidge effect itself. I mean, the idea is I can have sex with my wife, and I would be totally satisfied, and would tend to push her away like pulling away from the table after I've eaten enough.

Then let's say I tell her I'm going to the store, and while there a woman says she wants me really bad, and assuming I'm the kind of guy to fall for that, I would be so fired up with sexual desire and energy and great feelings, despite the fact that less than an hour ago I'd already done it. But I would suddenly find the energy and desire to go again, and I would get another dopamine spike, perhaps as strong or stronger than what I had several minutes before.

If those d2 receptors are so depleted because of the flood of orgasms, where is this renewed desire coming from? Why would I feel as big a high or higher with this strange woman if orgasms should have knocked out enough receptors that it will take them two weeks to grow back? Or does the Coolidge effect actually cause those little guys to pop back out in full force, demanding the other side to send that dopamine over, we want this!

I think perhaps on a limited basis I've experienced this with porn. After orgasm, I might watch some porn or find something else, and though I've just had an orgasm, I'll get hard again, and though the refractory period pain says, "Nope, bud. I'm done," the mind will say, "I know, but I still want more." Because I've gone to a new "woman." And I found to keep things fresh, I couldn't just masturbate to one porn vid for a long time. Two or three times, and I would have to move on to something else or I would go dead. It wouldn't excite me like it did before. So I usually cycled through the ones I had, to keep them fresh.

But still, I'm wondering about the receptor issue. If it takes them two weeks to come back to full force, how can they get reactivated within minutes when a new woman enters the picture? While not impossible that they literally pop back out in short order, that's not the picture I've had so far. But maybe instead of the receptors thinning a lot like they do with a crazy flood from drugs that is several times the multiple of sex dopamine, forcing the synapses to get crammed with dopamine unnaturally, it is more a matter of the dopamine supply either getting low from frequent use, or getting blocked.

I don't know. Just something I've wondered about, that doesn't immediately make sense to my mind.

Thanks for letting me wonder/wander. :)

Hi Cole, I’ll try my

Hi Cole, I’ll try my best…..

“Then I successfully abstain for a week for the first time in years, but by the end of it I was so sensitive. Just rubbing it sent great waves of pleasure over my body. I know one part of it is testosterone. That's what makes it feel so good. But I'm wondering what the d2 receptor state and dopamine production state was at that time. It certainly felt great. I felt I was being amply rewarded for holding off for a week.”
It’s hard to say what causes the increased sensitivity. I think it may be an increase in D2 receptors. Maybe your testosterone levels rise a bit – however, testosterone increases libido by increasing dopamine.

Once that return pathway gets grooved into the brain, then even though the dopamine levels that are reaching the rational brain are diminished, it still desires the rewarding pleasure. But not only is the dopamine being depleted, but so is the testosterone.
I’ve found no conclusive evidence that either abstinence or orgasms has long-term effects of blood levels of testosterone.

I always attributed that to my natural cycles. But rarely would it be as sensitive as what it was on Easter Sunday.
It was Easter after all, so maybe your penis was (a)rising to the occasion

“Another thing I'm wondering about. I guess we don't know the answer to this, but I would imagine that the dopamine and testosterone levels returning to balance wouldn't be a straight line increase, but more of a half-bell-curve type thing, except maybe not so belly as a dented bell, if you get the picture.”
Again, nothing definitive about testosterone levels in the blood. Rodent studies show a decrease in testosterone receptors in certain parts of the brain after orgasm. May last 4-7 days. That affects dopamine levels in the reward circuit. In female rats prolactin surges 2 times a day for 2 weeks – this too would affect dopamine levels.

But what that would mean is after one week, the dopamine receptors and levels would have returned to more than half of their balanced level.
Number one, we don’t know if dopamine receptors are involved with the hangover. Secondly, they may not return in a linear fashion. It may be a program that keeps them low for 2 weeks.

“Not only is the testosterone returned in full force by then, but there are enough dopamine receptors back on line to intensify the cravings, reinforcing the mental addictive pathways with physically addictive desire for the already ultra-sensitive to even wind blowing across it, physical pleasure crying to be released from its prison!”
Cravings for addicts are generally worse as they start through withdrawal. The further they get from their last hit of whatever it is, the better they feel. That said, its not necessarily linear. A lot of couples who have tried abstaining, find a lot of projections (and other symptoms) occurring second week after orgasm.

“And then there's one other thing that I've thought about recently (as if the foregoing isn't enough). One thing that makes me question the dopamine receptor issue is the Coolidge effect itself. I mean, the idea is I can have sex with my wife, and I would be totally satisfied, and would tend to push her away like pulling away from the table after I've eaten enough.
Then let's say I tell her I'm going to the store, and while there a woman says she wants me really bad, and assuming I'm the kind of guy to fall for that, I would be so fired up with sexual desire and energy and great feelings, despite the fact that less than an hour ago I'd already done it. But I would suddenly find the energy and desire to go again, and I would get another dopamine spike, perhaps as strong or stronger than what I had several minutes before.”
Coolidge effect means – that when given the choice between 2 options: someone you just fertilized and new prospect – your reward circuit will get a bigger blast of dopamine from the new one.
It does not mean that your dopamine will be as high as it was when you screwed the first person. The same mechanisms are in effect that occur after an orgasm – prolactin inhibiting dopamine. So if this is just an hour later, you must overcome the prolactin. If you overcome the recent orgasm, it’s due to the new babe driving up your dopamine enough to get another erection. Continue this process, and eventually, not even a new babe will enough of a dopamine rise to get you going. The dopamine spikes are not stronger, just stronger than if it was with the same old partner.

“If those d2 receptors are so depleted because of the flood of orgasms, where is this renewed desire coming from? Why would I feel as big a high or higher with this strange woman if orgasms should have knocked out enough receptors that it will take them two weeks to grow back? Or does the Coolidge effect actually cause those little guys to pop back out in full force, demanding the other side to send that dopamine over, we want this!
I think perhaps on a limited basis I've experienced this with porn. After orgasm, I might watch some porn or find something else, and though I've just had an orgasm, I'll get hard again, and though the refractory period pain says, "Nope, bud. I'm done," the mind will say, "I know, but I still want more." Because I've gone to a new "woman." And I found to keep things fresh, I couldn't just masturbate to one porn vid for a long time. Two or three times, and I would have to move on to something else or I would go dead. It wouldn't excite me like it did before. So I usually cycled through the ones I had, to keep them fresh.”

In our theory, and in the food experiments, the D2 are depleted but not gone. That’s why they craved cheesecake, and not regular rat chow – the novelty, and high fat sugar – they need more dopamine for the same buzz. But just like the rats, (they will eventually be full on the cheesecake), we too will be done after orgasms. When we get horny again (as the rats got hungry again), we might crave porn, novel mates, etc. because our D2 receptors are low (the rats ignore regular chow and only did the good stuff). A perpetual state of dissatisfaction – that’s low dopamine, or low D2 receptors

“But still, I'm wondering about the receptor issue. If it takes them two weeks to come back to full force, how can they get reactivated within minutes when a new woman enters the picture?”
In our theory, the D2’s don’t come back in minutes – as stated, it’s more dopamine for a new babe – picture, or real – than the one you just serviced

“While not impossible that they literally pop back out in short order, that's not the picture I've had so far. But maybe instead of the receptors thinning a lot like they do with a crazy flood from drugs that is several times the multiple of sex dopamine, forcing the synapses to get crammed with dopamine unnaturally, it is more a matter of the dopamine supply either getting low from frequent use, or getting blocked.”
I don’t think its necessarily the amount of dopamine – as in drugs. As stated above, it’s a set program initiated by orgasm. All drugs and addictions involve dopamine. But orgasm is a unique biological event, unlike any other. Which means it fires up a unique pathway of nerve cells. Activation of that pathway leads to the brain running a program. A program that takes two weeks to cycle through.

Thanks for the info Gary.

Certainly plenty of factors in all this. What I hear you saying, in general, is:

1. Testosterone isn't as affected by all of this as much as other chemicals like dopamine.

2. D2 receptors are reduced with orgasm, but it isn't just that fact that explains the unique "program" initiated by an orgasm, but involves other chemicals responding to it, maybe like prolactin.

I should note, on the sensitive side of orgasmic feeling, I'd make a distinction between being horny and being sensitive to orgasmic feeling. As you note, you can be horny within a few hours of an orgasm due to the low dopamine levels and your rational brain, addicted to it, wanting more. But the sensitivity, based on what you said, where you really feel great waves of pleasure from slight touches, would of necessity require a rise in dopamine, even if induced by testosterone spiking.

In my years of masturbating, on occasion I would have that type of sensitivity, but most of those times were by taking supplements that no doubt caused a rise in dopamine through other chemicals. But it seems that when many abstain for a week, around that time is when things kick into high gear on the "great feeling" side of things. Combine that with horniness, and you have a powerful combo.

Not knowing the curve in how fast the receptors grow back after orgasm, those that were taken out, one would have to assume that some of them have grown back within a week, increasing the receptiveness to a rise in dopamine. What percentage is anyone's guess I suppose until they can actually measure it at several points in a subject's orgasm and recovery. Should be some interesting data. Not only to see how that curve looks like, but also to see how much variation there is from one person to the next.

Thanks again for the response. It's all so very interesting. :D

I've just been looking again

at some of the research we found about post-O brain changes, and it's my thought that even though BLOOD levels of testosterone don't appreciably change (other than a brief blip(?) at day 7), what is probably changing is RECEPTORS FOR TESTOSTERONE in the hypothalamus. In rats, they began to come back within a few days, and the rats began copulating again by day seven. (They weren't back to their usual 7-8 copulations in a session until two weeks, though.)

So the cycle is likely quite complex after orgasm. D2 receptors (decline and recovery) may have more to do with the two-week aspects, and testosterone receptors may have more to do with that initial return of libido earlier on.

In short, both...as well as prolactin levels, opiates, and heaven knows what else...can be part of the picture. This is why it's always confusing when we zero in on ONE aspect.

Bottom line, the belief that some abstinence "raises testosterone" isn't without foundation...but it's probably more accurately "raises sensitivity and responsiveness of the brain to testosterone."

Same with D2 changes. Dopamine levels may remain the same (unless a novel mate happens by), but until the receptors completely recover, one's reward circuitry isn't completely back to normal.

I think your point about the distinction between "horny" and "satisfyingly sensitive" is a really important one. We've mused about what that might mean for human relationships, too.

dopamine recovery

I want to add my experience I feel its important.

Some asked what does it feel like to have no dopamine receptors.

Well I can tell you if you believe me.

I lost that much density of them throughout my brain that I was fixed awake, could not orgasm, and even had movement problems. Also bad tinnitus.

I was constantly trying to masturbate to get some relaxing as it was a very stressful experience.
I was fixed awake for a couple months broke all world records.

The body movement does recover
Sleep (you can still go into dream phase sleep which is unusual observations and you see hw the thinking mind shifts from dream thought to cognitive thought.

Anyway it took a few months to recover.
After 6 months there was return of what we know as real sleep.

As I was still masturbating morning and night trying to get dopamine, I did not recover orgasm.
The tinnitus seems to fade away after a year.

This is if you take such riddiculous doses that your whole dopamine shuts down.

It's very stressful. You don't eat because you are worried and scared

My only hope for return of orgasm is complete sexual abstinence. I find it difficult but I have to try.
Most of my cognitive functions returned over a year, abstract thinking, imagination, ect..
But at first you are just "aware" so highly, clearly aware of everything but no brain fog, clear as a bell, but no higher thought.

The mind feels tight and numb

I was taking 5g of cocaine every weekend for months and on 10g my brain just shut down
The dopamine In My body was so low I could hardly walk.
I'm fairly confident my sleep can return fully.

But I'm worried about orgasm ever again
Erections dissapear then return in the morning as receptors recover.
Feeling in the penis is currently diminished.

My regular doctor can do nothing.
I can relate to you all the phases of effects and a lot of insights into dream functions.

Have you seen the bond film where the villain gas permanent insomnia and has a dream mask for an hour a night? And his henchman has a few diamonds embedded in his face to look like a few remaining receptors? It's based on this unfortunate experience.

All I will say is that I'm certain my recovery is being reduced by masturbating.
I'm trying so much to stop

I hope my orgasm returns if not I am pretty much in a horrible situation.

I will note one very strange thing.
6 months into recovery, as sleep was returning. One morning I masturbated as usual and "presto" it all worked. Just one time. Then it was gone again. I'm well over 12months into recovery from adding insult to injury but this is a true story.

If anyone else has had to go through this, they have my deepest sympathy.
But any kind of addiction seems to me nothing compared to this.

I'm that shut down that even a beer doesn't work, there would be no point taking a drug, because they wont have an effect.

Make what you will of this report, but it has happened to people.

I pray my orgasm feeling will return.
Until then every tiny peep of sleep is so precious
And silence is golden