The Neuroscience of Sex: Post Nut Clarity
Ever wonder why your brain decides to start working again after you've busted a nut?
You've come to the right place to get your answers.
After having done hours of research that I could have otherwise accomplished in less if I had the common sense to just ask my male friends, I have separated post nut clarity into two distinct meanings of the phrase:
A sense of clarity of mind and improved decision making
Completely regretting what one has just done
For propriety's sake, we shall go through what causes both of these phenomena in painstaking scientific detail, to better understand how these things happen, and more importantly,
We start our journey of self-discovery at the temporal point where all seems hopeless and pain is inevitable: horniness.
When you're horny, you are experiencing a combination of the desire for emotional satisfaction one receives from real or perceived intimacy + your physical reaction caused by the anticipation for the sharp increase in dopamine that is caused by sexual stimulation in the lead-up to orgasm. In that regard, it's quite similar to the craving one gets for certain foods or even the anticipation for the thrill of roller coasters.
A 2005 study at the University Medical Center Groningen has shown that when a male's genitals are stimulated while erect by their partners, they observed increased blood flow (and thus more activity) in the insula and the secondary somatosensory cortex. On the other hand, activity decreased in the orbitofrontal cortex and the amygdala.
Woah, that was a mouthful, no pun intended. Let's break each component of those observations down to see what it means.
The insula is a part of the brain that deals with many functions, but the most relevant functions here are its abilities to judge the different degrees of pain and to handle some high cognitive-emotional processes such as empathy and the cognition of emotions, or the "thinking of thinking of emotions". It also plays a major role in subjective emotional experiences, primarily by helping its human subconsciously "remember" the trained emotional experience that is linked to a body's response to certain similar emotional events in the past.
This means if you've been gone down on and you got aroused, your body will remember the physical experience that you had, and the next time someone even hints at it, your body might start to respond in the same way. Cool, huh?
The secondary somatosensory cortex isn't very widely studied and thus scientist still only have a vague idea of its specific uses, but we do know that it processes bodily sensations and detects touch, pain, and temperature.
On the losing side, the orbitofrontal cortex sees a decrease in blood flow to that area when you're aroused/being ********ed, so what's happening, exactly?
The prefrontal cortex, which is where the orbitofrontal cortex is situated in, is in charge of making the executive decisions after consciously processing highly complex information, and the orbitofrontal cortex deals specifically with these higher cognitive processes, such as decision-making, judgement, and self-control.
Your prefrontal cortex is notoriously known as the last section of your brain to fully develop, which is why teenagers can be both unflinchingly intelligent and the dumbest people on earth. In women, their prefrontal cortexes mature at roughly 21, and in men, 25. This means that even without sexual arousal, young men and women are at a disadvantage when it comes to having to make important decisions based on logic alone, and men more so than women.
Less activity in this area means... well, you could probably figure that out with your prefrontal cortex.
Finally, the amygdala. In short, it stores the emotions linked to your memories, so reducing activity in the amygdala causes partial suppression of the emotions linked with certain activities. Combined with the decreased blood flow to the orbitofrontal cortex, this leads to stuff like one night stands when you know you don't do one night stands or jerking off to some questionable material when you've done it before and regretted it.
Your decreased brain function in these areas is the reason why post-nut clarity isn't pre-nut clarity.
Returning to the main storyline: after orgasm, the brain "runs out" of dopamine to release and its levels begin to drop, which gives many people that sense of post-coital/post-nut melancholy, often in spite of the great time they've just had. The sudden decrease in dopamine may look slightly different from person to person, but just for the purposes of this article, let's assume it results in one of the two scenarios stated right at the beginning.
The mind-clouding effects of pleasure and dopamine dissipate after orgasm, providing clear-headedness and better decision-making as activity resumes in the orbitofrontal cortex. The release of oxytocin, which is often called the "love hormone", during orgasm also promotes relaxation, stress-relief, and psychological stability, which often leads to more pro-social behaviours and a generally better mood.
If orgasm was achieved with a partner, oxytocin also works to help you bond with that partner, although this may be logically dispersed with if your hard-earned post nut clarity allows you to decide that this was in all respects A Bad Idea.
So next time you're feeling horny and frustrated, just know that beating one out might not be a sign of weakness, but a quick and surefire way to gain the mental clarity you need to do the best 5 minutes of thinking you'll do today and start functioning like a normal human being again.
In the next part of The Neuroscience of Sex, we'll be looking at the female orgasm, and how generally mind-bendingly awesome it is. Scientifically speaking, of course.
Cohut M., 2018. How does sex affect your brain. Medical News Today [online] Available at: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/321428#Brain-activity-and-sexual-stimulation
Andrews T., 2019. What the Hell is "Post-Nut Clarity"? [online] Available at: https://www.cosmopolitan.com/sex-love/a27545828/post-nut-clarity-definition/
Lillywhite M., 2019. Post Nut Syndrome, Explained [online] Available at: https://medium.com/@mattlillywhite/post-nut-syndrome-explained-63a9f65a081e#:~:text=It's%20a%20way%20for%20people,making%20a%20significant%20life%20decision.&text=It%20allows%20you%20to%20make,impactful%20decisions%20during%20a%20relationship
Various Authors, Insular Cortex [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Insular_cortex#cite_note-59