Interesting facts about your brain and libido

Understanding what sex drive entails

Sex drive is usually described as libido. There is no number scale with which libido can be measured, but libido helps you understand your sex drive in relative terms. For example, a low libido means a decreased interest or desire in sex.

The brain is the biggest sex organ in both men and women, therefore that is where the spark starts.

Ventral striatum: According to studies, this area lights up when you see something lust-inducing.

Amygdala: Some research suggests that your sex drive may be proportional to the size of your amygdala, the almond-shaped emotion centre of your brain.

Hypothalamus: When you experience something rewarding (such as a great kiss), this part of the brain produces dopamine, a neurotransmitter that’s critical for pleasure and motivation.

Cerebral cortex: The brain’s outer layer of grey matter is responsible for higher functions like planning and thinking, including thoughts about sex. It triggers a chain reaction that ultimately leads to the production of sex hormones.

When you become aroused, signals that originate in the cerebral cortex can interact with other parts of the brain and nerves. Some of these nerves speed up your heart rate and blood flow to your genitals. For a man, this signal is easily evident by an erection.

Pituitary: This gland secretes luteinizing hormone, which stimulates your ovaries as a female, producing estrogen. It also makes the “mothering” hormone prolactin—typically during pregnancy and breastfeeding—which lowers libido.

Testosterone is most closely associated with male sex drive and the male equivalent of the female oestrogen. It is produced mainly in the testicles and has a crucial role in a number of male body functions.

Low levels of testosterone are often tied to a low libido. Testosterone levels tend to be higher in the morning and lower at night. In a man’s lifetime, his testosterone levels are at their highest in his late teens, after which they slowly begin to decline.

For men, the libido lives in two areas of the brain: the cerebral cortex and the limbic system (The limbic system includes multiple parts of the brain: the hippocampus, hypothalamus and amygdala, and others). These parts of the brain are vital to a man’s sex drive and performance. They are so important, in fact, that a man can have an orgasm simply by thinking or dreaming about a sexual experience.

For women, your sex drive lives in all of the areas of the brain pointed out.

These parts are involved with emotion, motivation, and sex drive. Viewing sexually arousing images increases activity in the amygdalae of men more than it does for women. However, there are many parts of the brain involved with sexual response, so this finding does not necessarily mean that men are more easily aroused than women.

Loss of libido

Sex drive can decrease with age. But sometimes a loss of libido is tied to an underlying condition. The following can cause a decrease in sex drive:

Stress or depression. If you are experiencing mental health issues, talk to your doctor. He or she may prescribe medication or suggest psychotherapy.

Endocrine disorders. An endocrine disorder may decrease male sex hormones.

Low testosterone levels. Certain medical conditions, like sleep apnea, can cause low testosterone levels, which can impact your sex drive.

Certain medications. Some medications can impact your libido. For instance, some antidepressants, antihistamines, and even blood pressure medications can impair erections. Your doctor may be able to suggest an alternative.

High blood pressure. Damage to the vascular system can hurt a man’s ability to get or maintain an erection.

Diabetes. Like having high blood pressure, diabetes can damage the process of arousal and especially affect a man’s ability to maintain an erection.

Only you can measure what is normal for your sex drive. If you are experiencing libido changes, talk to your doctor. Sometimes it can be difficult to talk to someone about your sexual desires, but a medical professional may be able to help you.

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