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TODAY
updated 1/19/2007 4:05:54 PM ET 2007-01-19T21:05:54

Sex is the ultimate head game. Dr. Daniel Amen, a neuroscientist and head of the Amen Clinics, a psychiatric treatment center in Newport Beach, Calif., says a healthy brain can improve your sex life. As the largest and most sensitive organ in the body, the brain can help you heighten your pleasure and make you feel closer to your partner. You can even “brain wash” someone into being attracted to you. Dr. Amen was invited on TODAY to discuss his new book, “Sex on the Brain: 12 Lessons to Enhance Your Love Life.” Since you can never know too much about sex, TODAY asked him to answer some more questions on how you can use your head to be better in bed.

TODAY: How can you use your brain to make sex hotter?
Dr. Daniel Amen: Having a great brain helps you plan to have great sex. Great sex is not just a momentary phenomena, but rather a way of life. The brain is involved with everything we do, from good listening skills, thoughtfulness, kindness, doing something special for our lovers, and remembering what they like (in and out of bed). When the brain works right, it helps you be thoughtful, playful, romantic, intimate, committed, and loving with your partner. When the brain is dysfunctional, it causes you to be impulsive, distracted, addicted, negative, rigid, unfaithful, and even hateful, thus ruining chances for continued intimacy and love. There are many “brain issues” that get in the way of great sex, such as ADHD, depression, bipolar disorder, OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder), substance abuse, PMS, anxiety disorders, personality disorders, and brain injuries. Treating these properly enhances our ability to have amazing love relationships.

TODAY: Many people say they feel “chemistry” when they meet someone to whom they’re attracted. Is there such a thing?
Dr. Amen: You bet. When the attraction chemicals percolate they are every bit as strong as cocaine. Dopamine is the initial chemical of attraction (also the chemical that cocaine effects). When someone takes our breath away, we become motivated to get to know them better. Dopamine is the motivation chemical that drives behavior.

TODAY: How can you increase your dopamine during sex?
Dr. Amen: Dopamine is associated with excitement and motivation. Doing something new, edgy, maybe even a bit forbidden, is likely to increase dopamine. Doing the same old thing is likely to decrease it.

brainplace.com

TODAY: What is the most effective form of foreplay?
Dr. Amen: Foot rubs and shopping for shoes are wonderful forms of foreplay. Most people do not know that the area of the brain that feels the feet is right next door to the area of the brain that feels the genitals. When he says rub my feet, know that you are likely to get lucky tonight. When she wants you to go with her to buy shoes, think of it as a hot date. You, not the store clerk, should be putting the shoes on her.

TODAY: How can you make yourself unforgettable to your partner?
Dr. Amen: Here are seven ways to make yourself unforgettable to your partner.

  1. Take your partner’s breath away … make great memories. Wake up their brain to you.
  2. Do something special on an intermittent or unpredictable basis … if you do it all the time it will lose its special nature, the brain will get use to it and expect it.
  3. Take a class in your partner’s pleasure — know what him or her on.
  4. Novelty can boost lasting love, do something a little edgy. Boost dopamine!
  5. Use every sense, especially foot rubs.
  6. Do something great for someone your partner loves. Boost oxytocin.
  7. Summarize and immortalize loving moments (pictures, poems, cards, letters, etc.). Get inside their hippocampus (memory center).

TODAY: What is oxytocin? And how can it improve sex?
Dr. Amen: Oxytocin is the chemical of trust and bonding. Men have significantly lower levels of it than women. In women, holding hands, kind looks, doing something special for someone our partner loves, are all ways to increase oxytocin. In turn, it increases their bonding to their partner. For men, an orgasm actually increases oxytocin, up to 500 percent. So men need orgasm to become more bonded and connected, while women need touch and talking in order to get to the place of wanting to help their partner have an orgasm.

TODAY:  Is there such a thing as an aphrodisiac?
Dr. Amen: Increasing sexual interest and performance starts with increasing blood flow to the brain and genitals. Asian ginseng 200mg, gingko biloba 60-120mg, and L-arginine 3,000mg are ways to enhance blood flow. Sexy scents and foods can also help. Here is a list of both:

Sexy Scents
For Males:

  • Lavender
  • pumpkin pie
  • doughnut
  • black licorice
  • orange
  • cheese pizza
  • roast beef
  • cinnamon

For Females:

  • baby powder
  • cucumber
  • licorice
  • lavender
  • pumpkin pie

Sexy Foods

  • Almonds enhance PEA
  • Apples for sweet breath
  • Asparagus rich in Vitamin E essential for hormone building
  • Avocados for PEA, B6 and potassium
  • Bananas contain the bromelain enzyme, which is believed to improve male libido
  • Cabbage helps to increase circulation
  • Celery contains androsterone, a hormone released by male sweat that turns women on.
  • Chili peppers have capsaicin, stimulates nerve endings and raises heart rate
  • Cheese actually contains more PEA than chocolate
  • Chocolate increases PEA and theobromine, a substance similar to caffeine
  • Eggs for B vitamins that help balance hormones
  • Figs high in amino acids to increase libido
  • Garlic contains allicin, an ingredient that increases blood flow to the sexual organs
  • Nutmeg significantly increases sexual activity in rats
  • Oysters high in zinc which helps produce testosterone, also dopamine for stimulation
  • Wild Yams increase genital sensitivity

TODAY: What do men and women need to understand about how their brains work differently in order to have better sex?
Dr. Amen: Male and female brains are different, often very different. Understanding these differences can help you avoid a lot of the pain and miscommunication that happens between partners. Here are some differences that may help you.

Women have a larger corpus callosum. Thismeans they have more access to both hemispheres at once, better them better at multitasking. They also have more overall brain activity. Women are thinking, thinking, thinking, while men need more stimulation. Women often have language on both sides of the brain, so they have more to say and can overwhelm men with words. Women are usually much more sensitive to smells and touch, so it is helpful to find out how your wife likes to be touched and to take a shower before you approach her for sex. Women also have better peripheral vision, so, opposed to her mate, she can check out a cute person of the opposite sex and not get caught. Women have greater access to the right hemisphere so they see problems faster (both real and imagined); women are more likely to be more depressed (the right hemisphere is the negative side of the brain); they read social cues much better than their mates, so they can tell when their men are lying; and they are usually better at understanding the big picture of a situation

Men have less access to the right hemisphere. This means they tend to be more unrealistically optimistic.  They have a larger left parietal lobe, so they are usually better at direction sense.  But, since they have less access to the right hemisphere, they often do not know when they are lost. With less overall brain activity, men often he need stimulation, hence the television remote and porn.

TODAY: Is this why some women are attracted to men who aren’t especially attractive? Like Woody Allen?
Dr. Amen: Yes, women are attracted to different issues than men.  Most men are very visual, which is why women spend so much time on their appearances.  Women are more often more attracted to a man’s ability to care for them, hence the younger woman with the older, more successful man. 

TODAY: And finally, can you brain wash someone into falling in love with you?
Dr. Amen: Yes, you can use the brain science in “Sex On The Brain” to get inside another person’s head to encourage them to be more attracted to you. However, you need a healthy brain to be able to keep them interested after the dopamine has worn off.

If you’d like more information on “Sex on the Brain” by Dr. Amen, check out the Web site for his publisher, Random House at www.randomhouse.com.

© 2013 MSNBC Interactive.  Reprints

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