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brain scansWhat Do the Scientists Have to Say?

A surprising amount of research - much of it quite recent - suggests that sex has lingering effects on the brain, and that climax has much in common with drugs. In short, the effects are quite likely powerful enough to affect our perceptions, priorities, feelings of wellbeing, contentment and relationship harmony for a time. Indirectly, this research also suggests why karezza may naturally increase our capacity to bond, and help counter addiction, stress and depression. Funding sources and long held assumptions, however, ensure that most researchers in the area are engaged in the study of how pharmaceuticals might be developed to "enhance" conventional sex forcefully (and sometimes clumsily), rather than the study of how we might work with our biology to protect our pair bonds and enhance our overall wellbeing.

James G. Pfaus, PhD

Ejaculation in men induces a refractory period.  This period can vary from minutes to hours to even days.  Unfortunately very little is known about it other than what has been studied (and perhaps modeled) in rats.  It is a period of inhibition...  over erection, over further ejaculation if erection is obtainable, and most surely over desire and subjective arousal.  Neurochemically, it is characterized by activation of opioid, serotonin, and possibly endocannabinoid systems (along with many others like prolactin and oxytocin) that essentially depress hypothalamic systems that regulate desire and autonomic blood flow, along with limbic structures that regulate desire and specific sexual motivation.  It can induce sleep.  It results in long-term decreases in resting heart rate that can last well over 12 hrs after a single ejaculation.  Of course, in men with PE, ejaculation can induce an aversive state, as can ejaculation in men that suffer headaches afterward.  That said, what can alter this?

The neurochemical systems for arousal and desire (e.g., dopamine, noradrenaline, melanocortin, oxytocin, vasopressin, et al.).  Heightening of these, either pharmacologically or by stimuli that drive them (e.g., porn, pain, games, bondage, increasingly arousing fetish ideation, threat, or visual stimulation, etc.) can reduce the intensity of the inhibition -- for a while, and perhaps long enough to obtain another erection.  In men for whom such inhibition is diminished in the first place (in those with frontal damage, e.g., Kluver-Bucy, or in men that have a largely dopamine driven OCDs), it is possible that they gravitate toward what in their minds are highly arousing stimuli. If they are also ADD, then it is possible that they fail to focus on one and only one stimulus for a very long time.  The ease with which they can download multiple images or stream different videos would certainly play into this scheme as an "easy" way to charge the arousal and desire systems. 

Here's a selection of research we think is relevant.

Orgasm Cycle. A brief list of some of our articles is followed by a long list of relevant research. As a recent American Society of Addiction Medicine statement explained,

When one engages non-pathologically in potentially addictive behaviors such as gambling or eating [or sex], one may experience a "high", felt as a "positive" emotional state associated with increased dopamine and opioid peptide activity in reward circuits. After such an experience, there is a neurochemical rebound, in which the reward function does not simply revert to baseline, but often drops below the original levels. This is usually not consciously perceptible by the individual and is not necessarily associated with functional impairments.

Why Stop Orgasm Research at Climax? (Huffington Post)

Orgasm's Hidden Cycle

Men: Does Frequent Ejaculation Cause A Hangover?

Women: Does Orgasm Give You A Hangover?

Will Orgasms Keep You in Love?

What is "the chaser?"

Studies pointing to a neurochemical cycle after climax

Mechanisms common to sexual experience and drug use

Sexual experience, behavioral addictions and drug addictions share common mechanisms and result in similar brain changes. Recent research is starting to reveal some of this overlap.

Implications for pair-bonding mammals