Sleeping with someone can drudge up all sorts of actions and feelings you may not have even known you had — and that's because a lot goes on in your brain and your body that you might not even be aware of. There are a number of weird effects of sex on the brain, and knowing what these are can help you better understand why you feel the way you feel with someone. Not everyone reacts the same way after sex, but experts say there are certain hormones that are released and parts of the brain that are activated for most people when they get involved sexually with someone.
"Everything we do is connected to the brain," Shadeen Francis, MFT, a marriage and family therapist specializing in sex therapy, tells Bustle. "If we were to see ourselves as an organization, each system would be a network of interconnected systems and the brain would be the headquarters. It controls, reacts, and lays the framework for all of our functions: movement, thought, personality, sensation, emotion, etc. So pleasure doesn't really happen on the body, it happens in the brain! Our brains are our primary sex organ."
Here are seven weird things experts say happen to your brain after intimacy that you probably didn't know about.
1Oxytocin Is Released, Making You Feel Connected To Your Partner
After sex, oxytocin — often referred to as the cuddle hormone — is released, especially in women, experts say. "Oxytocin gives us that warm and fuzzy feeling after orgasms that make many of us want to nap, snuggle, or get comfy," says Francis. "If open to connection, this hormone makes us feel connected or attached to the person we have just slept with." Oxytocin also has pain-relieving properties that can help alleviate symptoms we may have been experiencing before or during sex, such as stress, headaches, or discomfort from rougher play.
2The Cerebellum Is Activated, Which Processes Emotion
"The cerebellum is the region of the brain involved in more complicated analyses of the world, including motor functioning, balance, and interestingly, some emotional processing," says Francis. "Activation in your cerebellum occurs throughout the sex to increase muscle tension, which is related to sexual stimulation. This tension can create a pathway for orgasm." Theories suggest that after sleeping with someone, activity in the cerebellum is involved in processing how you feel about the experience, she says.
3Dopamine is Releases, Making You Feel "High"
The neurotransmitter dopamine is released during pleasurable sex, and it floods your brain during orgasm. "Dopamine gives us the feeling of euphoric reward — it makes us feel like we have achieved something wonderful, like winning the lottery," says Francis. "Dopamine is one of the brain chemicals involved in addiction – it tells us 'That was good, we liked that, we should do that again and feel good again.' We pursue activities that release dopamine to chase that 'high.'"
4The Hippocampus Is Engaged, Which Can Affect Memory
For some, sex with someone seems like a blur. For others, each detail of the experience seems memorable. This has to do with the hippocampus, which is engaged during sex and can affect memory. "Depending on the context, the hippocampus’ involvement in sex can either enhance or worsen your memory," says Francis.
5The Orbitofrontal Cortex Is Shut Down, Which Can Affect Decision-Making
Orgasms shut down part of the orbitofrontal cortex of the brain, a region responsible for decision-making. "Although just for a moment, a pause in function of the lateral orbitofrontal cortex creates that out-of-body sensation sometimes experienced during orgasm," says Francis. "This may look like a spasm, a tic, a limpness, or just a sense of being overcome by your orgasm."
6Vasopressin Is Released, Which Makes You Feel Attached
Vasopressin (which is made in the hypothalamus) is released from the pituitary gland in the brain after sex. This hormone, which helps you regulate thirst, is also involved in the development of attachment. "Specifically, increased vasopressin is correlated with devotion to and protection of the person you slept with and is believed to be the hormone that motivates us to be monogamous," clinical psychologist Jennifer Sweeton, Psy.D., M.S., M.A. tells Bustle. "Research has shown that individuals who report cheating in their romantic relationships tend to have a gene variation that keeps their vasopressin production low."
7The Neural Pathway Involved In Social Judgment Turns Off
There's a reason you have a hard time producing a logical, analytical assessment of the person you slept with: the neural pathway involved in social judgment turns off. "This is likely why we have the saying that 'Love is blind," says Sweeton. Because of this, your focus may shift from thoughts to emotions.
Though not everyone's brains will react the same to sex, by knowing what's going on in your head, you can better understand your emotional and mental response.