Sex in old age trains the brain - really?

I have already presented healthy nutrition, brain jogging exercises and sufficient exercise several times as good brain and memory trainers. But regular sex in the second half of life is also said to boost brain function, according to a British study. The work of scientists from Oxford and Coventry Universities has been haunting the media for some time. And the topic is just too "sexy", I had to pick up on that too. So what's the story? In the study, which was published in the Journal of Ageing Research The Journals of Gerontology researchers asked 28 men and 45 women between the ages of 50 and 83 whether they had had sex weekly, monthly or never in the past 12 months. The participants were then subjected to standardised tests that are commonly used to examine various parameters of cognitive performance in older adults, namely attention, memory, verbal fluency and visual spatial awareness. In the fluency test, for example, the participants had to name as many animals as possible within 60 seconds and then as many words as possible that begin with F. The participants were then asked to name as many animals as possible within 60 seconds.

Better language skills with regular sex

Those who had sex at least once a week did better on some of these tests. In particular, they had higher language skills than the sexually inactive participants. The more active participants were also better at drawing a complex picture and tracing a clock face from memory. However, sexual activity apparently had no influence on memory and attention. "It is possible that greater frequency of sexual activity is related to better cognitive abilities," explains research team leader Hayley Wright. The researchers now want to find out the biological cause of the connection they found. For example, they want to find out whether hormones such as dopamine and oxytocin, which are released during the sexual act, somehow affect brain function.

My conclusion

I have presented this study to you because I am sure you have already read or will read about it. I myself find the work interesting, but not sufficiently conclusive. Firstly, the number of 83 study participants is very small. Moreover, the age range (50-83) should not be spread quite so widely. Secondly, I think the method of determining sex frequency by questionnaire alone is too prone to error. For various reasons, some study participants are likely to under- or exaggerate on this question - at least not necessarily tell the truth. And third, in my opinion, the study does not prove at all what is cause and what is effect. Does regular sex really lead to more fluency, as the authors conclude? Or, on the contrary, does someone who is more linguistically fluent subsequently have sex more regularly? Or are the frequency of sex and fluency two independent factors caused by a third factor, for example a fulfilling social or married life, physical health, etc.? I assume that scientists are also aware of these problems and that more extensive studies will therefore follow. Until then, I think the statement: "Sex is good for the brain" is probable, but not yet sufficiently proven. On the other hand, if not for the brain, sex is certainly good for other things.

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