Can Virtual Reality Sex Make You Smarter?
Exercise promotes neurogenesis, we know that however, there is something interesting I came across and that is this study.
It claims that sexual activity can produce the same effects as exercising. And multiple, repeated sexual experiences result in a greater effect than a single experience. But here’s my question. If sex makes you smarter through changes in synaptic strength, then just following the act SHOULD bring you the same benefit i.e. virtual sex.
As long as your brain is convinced it is real you should hypothetically speaking get the same result since it can’t distinguish between real and artificial. At least that’s my assumption.
Now here is where I want to touch on the more interesting theoretical concepts. First, why is sex rewarding and pleasurable? And why does it enhance learning? In short because of our gold old friendo “Dopamine” Dopamine is responsible for many functions in our brain, including: reward, motivation, pleasure, focus, attention to name a few.
The thing with dopamine is that you can get the neural benefits of engaging in a pleasurable activity WITHOUT having to do anything other than trick your brain into thinking that it’s getting the reward. This can be done via conditioning or paired association learning. But what about more technologically induced ways? Like Virtual Reality?
Some transhumanists believe (so did I) that by the time we perfect Full-Immersion Virtual Reality, humans will no longer need or want to have sexual intercourse. And it’s a valid point. If you can fuck whatever, wherever, and whenever you want…. phew who can compete with that?
Leuner, et al claims that the pleasure component of the activity is crucial to the maximum benefit derived from engaging in it. That begs the question: Does bad sex induce the same levels of growth and anti-anxiety benefit as great sex? Look at VR sex. In theory, it’s perfect in every way, fitting exactly to your deepest desires, so ultimately, it’s the best sex of your life every time you’d switch on the device.
Your brain actually believes it’s engaging in this activity, that it’s real, so you would expect to see the same types of reward response in the neurons, activation of the dopamine receptors, following the simulation. If this is true, in theory, you would also experience neural growth as a result of engaging in VR sex, even though your body is passive.
In fact, if the amount of neurogenesis achieved is in any way related to the quality of the sex or the amount of pleasure experienced, would you get even MORE growth from virtual sex than you would in actual sex?
Looking at it this way opens the door for all kinds of artificial enhancements. If we can trick the brain into perceiving an activity as pleasurable, activating those addictive little dopamine receptors, we could potentially enhance learning capacity merely by experiencing a simulation in our mind. How many people do you think would spend all weekend having virtual sex if this were possible?
However, what happens after the VR sex simulation is over, and you consciously understand that it was not real, does this impact any of the positive effects? I guess we won’t know for a couple more years until we study it, a lack of test subjects wouldn’t be a problem that’s for sure.
As akways thanks for reading and stay tuned for the next one.
Leuner B, Glasper ER, Gould E (2010) Sexual Experience Promotes Adult Neurogenesis in the Hippocampus Despite an Initial Elevation in Stress Hormones. PLoS ONE 5(7): e11597. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0011597
Takahashi T, Zhu Y, Hata T, Shimizu-Okabe C, Suzuki K, et al. (2009) Intracranial self-stimulation enhances neurogenesis in hippocampus of adult mice and rats. Neuroscience 158: 402–411.
Owesson-White CA, Cheer JF, Beyene M, Carelli RM, Wightman RM (2008)
Dynamic changes in accumbens dopamine correlate with learning during
intracranial self-stimulation. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 105:11957–11962