‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ Is Good For Your Brain, Says Top Doc Daniel Amen

Unlease the Female Brain

By A. C. Rose

We asked leading brain doctor, Daniel Amen, MD, about the benefits of reading Fifty Shades of Grey. He agrees it good for us!

Dr. Amen is a clinical neuroscientist, psychiatrist, and expert on applying brain imaging science to everyday clinical practice. As founder of the Amen Clinics and bestselling author of 29 books, he is a leading expert on all things about the female brain.

He indicated that the reason we love reading Fifty Shades so much is that it can heighten feel good chemicals in the brain and inspire more sexual activity as home, which in turn helps us feel better!

We were able to pose a couple of question to him about Fifty Shades during a interview about his book, Unleash the Power of the Female Brain: Supercharging Yours for Better Health, Energy, Mood, Focus, and Sex, in which he offers tools and exercises for understanding, optimizing, and harnessing the power of the female brain — including a program for relief from depression. The books was released in paperback last month.

Here’s an excerpt from our interview.

A. C. Rose: Fans seem so happy when they read Fifty Shades of Grey. Do you think it boosts their Serotonin?

Dr. Daniel Amen: It’s not Serotonin, it’s Dopamine. Dopamine is the chemical that is pleasure, surprise, motivation, “OMG,I can’t believe he did that,” or “I can’t believe she’s giving into him.” I think husbands or boyfriends get the benefit because now it helps the women relax.

Is it correct to that that when people are reading fiction books, the brain can’t tell difference between reading it and doing it?

Dr. Amen: Yes. You have to be careful what you read. I think you have to be careful what you read because it becomes part of your DNA. It stimulates people.

You mean Christian Grey gets into your brain? Is that how it works?

Dr. Amen: Happy thoughts. He becomes part of synapses. You’re much more likely to remember something if it’s visual and emotionally intense, good or bad. For that month my wife was reading those three books, I noticed that she was more talkative, more happy, and more edgier, and was very curious.

Does this book alleviate depression in women?

Dr. Amen: I think it’s the trigger that leads to other things that helps alleviate depression in women. Women are more stressed out now because they are doing too much, working full time, managing their husbands, taking care of their kids. Because of that they begin to ignore some of the really important parts of life that have anti-depressant qualities like making love to your husband. I am convinced it has anti-depressant qualities, not just because I’m a guy (I’ve been accused of that). It’s the exercise and the eye contact, touching and closeness. Another treatment for depression is interpersonal psychotherapy, teaching people to get along with other people has anti-depressant qualities.

So it is no surprise that reading the book can improve a readers love life and perhaps your mental health?

Dr. Amen: If you read the book you are tinglier inside and you like your husband more, then you are relieving some of the built-up energy from reading the book on a more regular basis, which has anti-depressant affects.

Does the basic act of reading make you feel like it’s really possible? Like it’s happening to you in real life?

Dr. Amen: It depends on the book. Ken Follett is great about writing about relationships and you find yourself totally immersed and it’s like you are there. This is why you smile and why you laugh–because he’s talented at being able to put you right where the story is… right where the bedroom is… right where the flirtatious woman or guy is.

And many of us feel like we are right there when reading Fifty Shades and other steamy novels!

Unleash the Power of the Female Brain: Supercharging Yours for Better Health, Energy, Mood, Focus, and Sex is packed with great advice for women on how to be healthy, happier, calmer, and to access the power of the female brain. He says some of our natural skills include intuition, empathy, self-control, and the ability to work collaboratively.

Dr. Amen is also the author of the bestselling book The Brain and Love, for more information on his take on the benefits of love, sexual activity, romance, and the brain. Its a really fun book.

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Christian Grey, Ana Steele, and the Non-Kiss That Began It All

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By A. Charlotte Rose

Photos from the filming of Fifty Shades of Grey have been reminding us of the very hot non-kiss that began the relationship between Christian Grey and Ana Steele.

Here’s an excerpt about that scene–and about kissing–from a paper about Christian and Ana I wrote for a course called “Theories of Love and Romance.” All the quotes from Fifty Shades of Grey are of course attributed to E.L. James and this, of course, comes with a big SPOILER ALERT:

In fairytales, the kiss is the thing that can awakens the sleeping princess or turns the frog or beast back into a prince. Ana wanted that! But in Fifty Shades of Grey it was a refused kiss that first fueled the flames of Ana’s intrigue and desire.

Christian invited Ana for coffee, and on the way back to his hotel she is nearly run over by a speeding cyclist. Christian catches her from falling. “It all happened so fast—one minute I’m falling, and the next I’m in his arms and he’s holding me tightly… He’s staring into my eyes, and I hold his anxious, burning gaze for a moment or maybe it’s forever … but eventually, my attention is drawn to his beautiful mouth. And for the first time in my 21 years, I want to be kissed. I want to feel his mouth on mine (James, 2012, p. 48).”

They are both deeply drawn and moved by this moment, but Christian, knowing her innocence and his own darkness, refuses to kiss her. “Anastasia, you should steer clear of me. I’m not the man for you (James, 2012, p. 48),” he whispers. She leaves the situation fearing she’s misread his interest and he leaves even more desirous of her.

When they finally do kiss, it is in an uncontainable eruption of passion and it is the action that fully launches the erotic adventure between Christian and Ana—and the reader. It occurs at the Heathman Hotel, before the characters have had a sexual experience, and before Ana has signed the NDA (Non-disclosure agreement) that Christian insisted must be in place before their relationship could begin. Since paperwork and agreements were a huge part of book one in the trilogy, this scene showed the sheer force of their attraction and illustrates so many of the erotic cues that drew them both in.

This passage has become legendary among fans:

“We walk in silence down the corridor toward the elevator. As we wait I peek up at him through my lashes, and he looks out of the corner of his eyes down at me. I smile, and his lips twitch.”
“The elevator arrives, and we step in. We’re alone. Suddenly, for some reason, possibly our proximity in such enclosed space, the atmosphere between us changes, charged with an electric, exhilarating anticipation. My breathing alters as my heart races. His head turns fractionally toward me, his eyes darkest slate. I bite my lip.”

“Oh, fuck the paperwork,” he growls. He lunges at me, pushing me against the wall of the elevator. Before I know it, he’s got both of my hands in a viselike grip above my head, and he’s pinning me to the wall using his hips. Holy sh-t. His other hand grabs my hair and yanks down, bringing my face, up and his lips are on me. It’s not painful. I moan into his mouth, giving his tongue an opening. He takes full advantage, his tongue expertly exploring my mouth. I have never been kissed like this. My tongue tentatively strokes his and joins his in a slow, erotic dance that is all about touch and sensation, all bump and grind. He brings his hand up to grasp my chin and holds me in place. I’m helpless, my hands pinned, my face held, and his hips restraining me. His erection against my belly. Oh my… He wants me. Christian Grey, Greek God, wants me, and I want him here, here, now, in the elevator (James, 2012, p. 77-78).”

When the elevator stops and the kiss abruptly ended, they walk out to the lobby:

“I struggle to keep up with him because my wits have been thoroughly and royally scattered all over the floors and walls of elevator three in the Heathman Hotel.” Ana goes off to work still reeling from the experience. “The memory of our kiss this morning comes back to haunt me. I have thought of nothing else all day… to say I was distracted would be the understatement of the year (James, 2012, p. 87). ”

Understanding the chemistry of a kiss can help explain the desire and sexual awakening Ana felt, as well as understanding why she felt fragmented afterwards, and distracted, because the kiss ended suddenly.

In The Science of Kissing, Sheril Kirshenbaum says that a lot goes on in the body before a kiss, and a tremendous amount occurs once the lips touch. “During a passionate kiss, our blood vessels dilate and receive more oxygen than normal to the brain. Our breathing becomes irregular and deepen; our cheeks flush, our pulse quickens, and our pupils dilate, which may be one reason so many of us closes our eyes (Kirshenbaum, 2011, 78).

“Perhaps most important of all, when we kiss, all five of our senses are busy transmitting messages to the brain. Billions of little nerve connections are at work, firing away and distributing signals around our bodies. Eventually, these signals reach what is called the somatosensory cortex: the region of the brain that processes feelings of touch, temperature, pain, and more. Here they are interpreted, resulting in thought such as: ‘Did he just have onions?’ or “where is that hand wondering (Kirshenbaum, 2011, 79).’”

Ana was pretty taken with where his hands wandered and this kiss set the stage for the passion that would ensue. “A kiss is more than a kiss,” writes Judith Horstman. “It is an intimate exchange of scents, tastes, textures, secrets, and emotions. A touch of the lips triggers a cascade of neural messages and chemicals that transmit tactile sensations and sensual excitement, feelings of closeness, motivation, and even euphoria.”

When Reading Romance Novels Your Brain May Think Fiction Is Reality

want to live in books

By A. Charlotte Rose

Have you ever had the experience of becoming so lost in a great romance story that you could swear you are actually in the experience with the hero and heroine? You literally feel that first stir of attraction, that first kiss, and that magnetic pull that joins two characters together as they fall more deeply in love. You can even feel like you are right there in the scenes of passionate love-making and you can feel their tension, misunderstandings, and conflicts as well—strongly!

Recent studies have explored the impact of fictional characters in the lives of fans, as well as how the brain perceives these characters and their experiences. The outcome:
When you read a book, as far as the brain is concerned, it is really happening. You are there in the story.

This explains why we get so carried away by a good romance book and experience so many emotions.

In one study, published in The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, researchers at Ohio State University examined what happened to people who, while reading a fictional story, found themselves feeling the emotions, thoughts, beliefs and internal responses of one of the characters as if they were their own – a phenomenon the researchers call “experience-taking.”

The Research News, at Ohio State, reported, “Experience-taking changes us by allowing us to merge our own lives with those of the characters we read about, which can lead to good outcomes,” said Geoff Kaufman, who led the study as a graduate student at Ohio State.

Kaufman said while this phenomenon does not occur with every reader, and it can be temporary, it is enabled to occur when, “people are able, in a sense, to forget about themselves and their own self-concept and self-identity while reading.”

This seems to fit with the experience of many romance book readers who report that the books are a total distraction; and that while engrossed in reading they don’t feel compelled to even want to have to deal with life – work, kids, etc.

In March 2012, The New York Times reported on two studies that found a marriage between neuroscience and fiction. The article, “Your Brain on Fiction,” summarized a 2006 study published in the journal NeuroImage, that involved researchers in Spain, and also reported on a team of team of researchers from Emory University in the United States who shared their findings in the February 2012 Brain & Language. The article concluded:

“The brain, it seems, does not make much of a distinction between reading about an experience and encountering it in real life; in each case, the same neurological regions are stimulated. “ It quoted Keith Oatley, an emeritus professor of cognitive psychology at the University of Toronto (and a published novelist), who suggested that a vivid simulation of reality “runs on minds of readers just as computer simulations run on computers.”

The New York Times surmised: “Fiction — with its redolent details, imaginative metaphors and attentive descriptions of people and their actions — offers an especially rich replica. Indeed, in one respect novels go beyond simulating reality to give readers an experience unavailable off the page: the opportunity to enter fully into other people’s thoughts and feelings. The novel, of course, is an unequaled medium for the exploration of human social and emotional life. And there is evidence that just as the brain responds to depictions of smells and textures and movements as if they were the real thing, so it treats the interactions among fictional characters as something like real-life social encounters.”

These three studies offer remarkable insight into the level of involvement with the books and characters that many fans seem to report—including why so many readers talk about their favorite fictional characters as if they are real people.

Well, aren’t they?

When you read, do you feel like you are in the story?

This was originally published in my Hot Romance column at The Three Tomatoes web site.