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This article is the author’s final published version in Frontiers in Psychology, Volume 12, November 2021, Article number 708973.

The published version is available at Copyright © Newberg et al.


Background: We measured changes in resting brain functional connectivity, with blood oxygen level dependent (BOLD) functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), associated with a creative meditation practice that is augmented by clitoral stimulation and is designed to not only achieve a spiritual experience but to help individuals manage their most intimate personal relationships. Briefly, the meditative state is attained by both the male and female participants while the male stimulates the woman's clitoris. The goal of this practice, called orgasmic meditation (OM), according to the practitioners is not sexual, but to use the focus on clitoral stimulation to facilitate a meditative state of connectedness and calm alertness between the two participants.

Methods: fMRI was acquired on 20 pairs of subjects shortly following one of two states that were randomized in their order - during the OM practice or during a neutral condition. The practice is performed while the female is lying down on pillows with the clitoris exposed. During the practice, the male performs digital stimulation of the clitoris for 15 min. Resting BOLD image acquisition was performed at completion of the practice to assess changes in functional connectivity associated with the performance of the practice.

Results: The results demonstrated significant changes (p < 0.05) in functional connectivity associated with the OM compared to the neutral condition. For the entire group there was altered connectivity following the OM practice involving the left superior temporal lobe, the frontal lobe, anterior cingulate, and insula. In female subjects, there was altered connectivity involving the cerebellum, thalamus, inferior frontal lobe posterior parietal lobe, angular gyrus, amygdala and middle temporal gyrus, and prefrontal cortex. In males, functional connectivity changes involved the supramarginal gyrus, cerebellum, and orbitofrontal gyrus, cerebellum, parahippocampus, inferior temporal gyrus, and anterior cingulate.

Conclusion: Overall, these findings suggest a complex pattern of functional connectivity changes occurring in both members of the couple pair that result from this unique meditation practice. The changes represent a hybrid of functional connectivity findings with some similarities to meditation based practices and some with sexual stimulation and orgasm. This study has broader implications for understanding the dynamic relationship between sexuality and spirituality.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

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