How the brain reacts to sex and meditation is exactly the same, according to a new study conducted by researcher Gemma O'Brien, an Irish researcher at the School of Biological, Biomedical and Molecular Sciences at the University of New England.
She discovered that people experiencing orgasms and meditating both experience "diminution of self-awareness" and "alterations in bodily perception".
When having sex the right hemisphere of the brain kicks into action, with much of cortex going dark and the hemisphere lit up like a "bright island". The same thing happens on the left side with meditation.
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Pleasure has classically been thought to be the province of the left hemisphere but not according to this new research published in the Scientific American magazine.
The left side of the brain becomes active when thinking about happy memories, meditating on love for another and during episodes of mania. It is also more active amongst people who do not suffer from depression.
Surprisingly the left side of the brain is quiet during orgasm.
As O'Brien put it “orgasm is not impersonal and third person enough for the sciences.” Until eight years ago there was light scientific basis from which to comment on bliss. With this new research a portrait of pleasure in the brain is beginning to form.
The difference between an orgasm and thinking about your lovely old grandma, in terms of the brain, is that bliss causes "diminution of self-awareness, alterations in bodily perception and decreased sense of pain". Although the left lobe might be active and showing pleasure the other characteristics are not present.
The absence of pain is related to pleasure. However, losing a sense of identity and bodily limits are less obvious. The self ordinarily is divided between the stream of consciousness and an internal observer but not during moments of mysticism.
The same can be said of self-awareness. We have a "running critique organizing conscious experience" except when we are in bliss.
Meditation allows people relief from self- preoccupation and boosts happiness. The Tibetan Buddhist monks have the biggest measured spike in activity of their left prefrontal cortex through meditating on compassion.
Both orgasm and meditation seems to dissolve the sense of physical boundary but the activation patterns are distinct.
O'Brien's study also found that the right hemisphere is hyper active among "hypersexual" people. This is a brain injury which results in groping, propositioning or masturbating in public without shame.