Study: Masturbation during Puberty Helps Drive Growth

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Sep 22, 2017

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Puberty – that awkward stage when kids deal with sudden body growth, acne anxieties, and a new, inexplicable attraction toward their peers, and parents are left dumbstruck by volatile moods and smothering body odor. While new bursts of hormones and chemicals in the body are known to be the catalysts of puberty, a new study has found sexual touch is also a critical driver of adolescent growth.

More simply: Masturbation during puberty is not only normal – it also plays a big role in an adolescent’s healthy development.

During puberty, “the representation of the body changes in the cerebral cortex, and in particular the genital cortex doubles in size,” explained study co-leader Michael Brecht, of the Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience and Humboldt University, Berlin. “Our results help to understand why the perception of our body changes so much during puberty.”

Researchers observed rats whose genitals were touched with a brush, and analysed neural changes and puberty onset, compared to rats who were not stimulated. They found rapid growth in the genital cortex, a tiny but important part of the brain’s sensory cortex that allows us to feel physical sensations like, say, a sharp poke in the side – or an orgasm.

(Let’s pause here and take a moment of silence for the intern whose job it was to, erm, stimulate a rat.)

The authors concluded that, while hormones are predominantly responsible for the changes of puberty, sexual touch – masturbation — also plays a substantial role in healthy, adult development.

There’s a lesson here – beyond just making sure you knock and wait 30 seconds before entering your preteen or teen’s bedroom. If masturbation is an important part of puberty – which can start as early as 10 – then sex education that covers not only the physiological changes of adolesence, but also sexual urges, sexual values, masturbation and sex, is critical before kids get intimate with themselves. That way, they have a chance to practice on mind as well as body, engage in healthy sexual attitudes alongside healthy masturbation. Otherwise, they’re just an intern with a brush and a rat.

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Written By Sapan Taneja

Sapan Taneja is a freelance writer, editor and a videographer. He is the sub-editor of Transitions in Global Education and has previously headed the Warwick India Forum. He holds a BSc in Economics, Politics and International Education from the University of Warwick.

See all articles by Sapan

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