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#3: Neurophysiological Correlates of Orgasmic Meditation using the PET/fMRI scanner

#3: Neurophysiological Correlates of Orgasmic Meditation using the PET/fMRI scanner

Andrew Newberg, MD, PhD
The overall goal of this study was to determine the neurophysiological correlates of Orgasmic Meditation (OM) as well as compare these effects to those of other meditation-based practices. By utilizing the PET-MRI scanner at Thomas Jefferson University, the most accurate neurophysiological data was obtained on the effects of Orgasmic Meditation.

Twenty pairs of people were studied, scanning both the ‘stroker’ as well as the ‘strokee’. Subjects initially had an intravenous catheter placed in their arm and then after approximately 15-20 minutes, began the OM practice. Half way through the practice, the individuals were injected with the radioactive tracer, 18F Fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG), in order to measure changes in cerebral glucose metabolism associated with the OM practice. Scans captured changes that occurred from the moment of injection during the OM practice. In addition, fMRI data was obtained to assess changes in functional connectivity and overall brain activity after the OM practice. The OM practice was directly compared to a “baseline” state in which similar movements and contact occur between the two individuals, but the actual practice and stimulation was not performed.

Quantitative analysis was performed on both the PET and fMRI scans to measure the physiological effects of the OM practice. In addition, several qualitative questionnaires were completed in order to assess the subjective intensity and quality of the experience. The primary aims were:

Aim 1. To evaluate the neurophysiological effects of OM on the stroker (giver) and strokee (receiver) using a combination of PET and fMRI, along with autonomic nervous system effects.

Aim 2. To correlate FDG PET and fMRI with the subjective effects that occur during OM.

IMPACT:

  1. First ever study to fully evaluate the neurophysiological effect of Orgasmic Meditation on the brain using FDG PET and autonomic activity, and how such changes relate to subjective experiences during the practice.
  2. First ever study to fully evaluate the neurophysiological effect of Orgasmic Meditation on the brain using fMRI and autonomic activity, and how such changes relate to subjective experiences during the practice.

The results of Orgasmic Meditation in this study revealed:

  • OM is more akin to a spiritual experience than sex in the brain
  • OM shows similar brain patterns to a psychedelic therapy experience
  • Both cortex and limbic areas of the brain are affected in OM
  • The brain changes observed during OM were similar between partners of both genders
  • Both people had increased heart rate variability (HRV), an indicator of health, immediatly after OM
  • Females showed significant activity in the brain similar to an “at one” experience found in other studies*
  • Males showed significant activity in the brain similar to a“flow state” experience found in other studies**

Note: Dr Andrew is preparing a book based on this study.*Definition of “at one” : in a peaceful state as a part of something else

**Defintion of  “flow state” : state that is generally associated with effortlessness,  focused attention, suspension thoughts creating a positive experience of pleasantness and intrinsic motivation. A sense of being alert while letting go.

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