This is Your Brain on... Sex

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This is Your Brain on... Sex

Sex is fun. I'm sure I don't need to sell you on the concept. But exactly how fun dancing the horizontal mambo is depends more on what's going on up top than, well, anywhere else. Your brain is your most powerful sex organ, and learning how it works can be the difference between "eh" and "ah!"

Let's start with hormones. Any woman who's ever wondered why she cried through a shampoo commercial and ate six bars of chocolate only to find Aunt Flo on her doorstep the next day won't be surprised that hormones like dopamine (the happiness hormone), oxytocin (the cuddling hormone), and even testosterone (yes, girls have some too), rule our sex drive too. We tend to think of hormones as things that control us, but it turns out we have some control over them as well. And it all starts with your brain!

Dr Daniel Amen, researcher and author of the book Sex on the Brain: 12 Lessons to Enhance Your Love Life, compiled more than 36,000 brain scans to figure out how to use your brain to your healthiest—and sexiest—advantage. Here are a few tips to get you started:

1. Don't ignore mental illness. Since dopamine has the largest effect on your libido, pleasure, and orgasm, making sure you have just enough is crucial. Too little and you'll be in your Forever Lazy with a good book. Too much and you could become a sex addict. Untreated depression due to dopamine malfunction is, unsurprisingly, one the most common mood-killers. ADHD, anxiety, and other mood disorders can have a big effect on libido.

2. Have an attitude of gratitude. Dr. Amen says that changing the way you think about things can actually change your brain scans. Positive people tend to think more positively about everything, including sex. He suggests making a list every night of a few things that you are grateful for.

3. Accept gender differences. Men and women are different—you might have heard. But Dr. Amen cautions women not to discount the impact of these structural and societal differences. "Women need to ask for what they want sexually, and must teach their men through repetition, practice, and good coaching."

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