fall affects sex life

Photo: Aya Brackett

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You See Thanksgiving Dinner in a Whole New Way

Back to that pumpkin pie. For men, a mere whiff of it is sexually arousing, found a study led by Alan Hirsch, MD, founder and neurological director of the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation. Measuring sniffers' erections with a device called a plethysmograph, Hirsch found that an odor mixture of pumpkin pie and doughnut led, on average, to a 20 percent increase in penile blood flow, and a pumpkin-pie-and-lavender blend increased blood flow by a robust 40 percent. There's a direct pathway between the olfactory bulb and a pleasure center in the brain (the septal nucleus) that moderates a man's sexual response, Hirsch explains. These odors could trigger a "Pavlovian response"—by association—because they're nostalgic, homey and/or relaxing, he says. Hirsch also suggests that males evolved to be sexually primed by food, and the harvest would have been a good time to find a mate and procreate. (Not everything Thanksgiving is a turn-on. Cranberry odors only inspired a 5 percent increase in blood flow.)