Orgasmic meditation is one thing. Jefferson researchers are studying what it does to your brain.


Andrew Newberg, a physician trained in medical imaging and nuclear medicine, has long studied what he calls neurotheology, the science of what spirituality looks like in the form of prayer, meditation, mindfulness, and even speaking in tongues. , in the brain.

Newberg, who is research director for the Marcus Institute of Integrative Health at Thomas Jefferson University and Hospital, said some of his early work in the 1990s focused on changing human religious and spiritual practices. Many, he says, derive from rituals.

“The evolution of rituals in humans really started with the evolution of rituals in animals,” he said. These rituals had only one goal: mating. People made the rituals much more complicated, but Newberg could see an overlap between intense spiritual and sexual practices. The word “ecstatic” has been applied to both.

So, Newberg was intrigued when the Institute of OM Foundation, which promotes the study of orgasmic meditation (OM), asked him to study the relatively new spiritual practice and offered to pay for the research.

His team’s early findings, recently published in Frontiers in Psychology, show a complex pattern of responses in men and women that reflect distinct, hybrid patterns of brain connections associated with both spirituality and sexual arousal. Participants also reported intense emotional feelings of connection and oneness. Some have described a feeling of fluidity or abandonment.

Newberg said orgasmic meditation has been around for 15 to 20 years.

While some forms of meditation involve focusing on the breath, a tense muscle, or an object like a candle flame, OM calls for focusing on the clitoris. Male and female couples meditate together. The woman, who is still the “recipient”, is lying in a comfortable place with her upper body clothed and the clitoris exposed. The male donor or stroker sits next to her. Her job is to stroke the clitoris for 15 minutes with a fully clothed gloved and lubricated finger. Despite the name that catches the eye, the goal isn’t orgasm, although it does happen sometimes, Newberg said.

Jefferson’s study involved 20 pairs with previous experience with OM and with each other. The women were on average 39 years old and the men 41. It was not physically possible for them to perform OM in an fMRI machine, so the researchers placed them in a private room. Each pair did OM and, at a different time, a control activity for comparison. No orgasm has been reported.

About half an hour after finishing the exercise, the woman and then the man were taken for the fMRI so the researchers could see which parts of their brains were active. These scans were compared to images taken before OM.

The team found significant differences in functional brain connectivity between active OM and control activity. OM has led to changes in a long list of brain areas, including those associated with focus and flow, spatial self-representation or surpassing oneself, and both meditation and sexual stimulation. . Newberg said the responses were more like reactions to religious and spiritual practices than purely sexual experiences.

“This study has broader implications for understanding the dynamic relationship between sexuality and spirituality,” the team wrote in the study. Just as mindfulness has been used in people with medical and mental health issues, Newberg said he believes OM could be studied in people with issues with emotional regulation, sexual dysfunction, pain. , depression and anxiety.


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