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Brain Scans Reveal How Talking About Yourself Can Feel Better Than Sex

Update Date: Jul 18, 2013 04:47 PM EDT

Talking about yourself is as pleasurable as having sex, a new study suggests.

Psychologists from Harvard University Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Lab wanted to find out if self-disclosure is linked to parts of the brain associated with pleasure and reward.

After conducting various tests and brain scans, researchers found that when people talk about themselves, it triggers the same chemical response they experience during sex.  Researchers said this might be why people are motivated to share personal information more regularly.

Researchers Adrian Ward and his team used functional magnetic resonance imaging to identify changes in the level of blood flow in certain parts of the brain when presented with certain stimuli.

In the study researchers asked 195 people to talk about themselves during the fMRI experiment. Participants talked about their own opinions and personality traits as well as the opinions and personality traits of other people they knew.

Ward and his ream them measured the blood flow levels in the participant's brains during discussions about themselves and other people. Then they used to scans to compare differences in neural activity.

The brain scans revealed that when participants talked about themselves, there was an increase in activity to the medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC), which has previously been linked with self-related thought.

The scans also revealed a change in activity in the nucleus accumbens (NAcc) and the ventral tegmental area (VTA), which are dopamine-releasing regions of the brain. Previous studies have linked these two areas of the brain to pleasurable activities like having sex, taking cocaine or eating sweet and tasty foods.

Researchers said the latest findings suggest that talking about yourself may be "inherently pleasurable," which would motivated people to talk more about themselves.

The study also found that while talking about yourself is pleasurable, talking about yourself to someone else is even more pleasurable. The findings show that when people were told their responses would be shared, their brain regions experienced a higher level of activity than when people were told that their responses would be kept private.

"You may like to talk about yourself simply because it feels good-because self-disclosure produces a burst of activity in neural regions associated with pleasure, motivation, and reward," Ward wrote in a Scientific American post.

"But, in this case, feeling good may be no more than a means to an end-it may be the immediate reward that jump-starts a cycle of self-sharing, ultimately leading to wide varieties of long-term benefits," he added.

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