Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Orgasms Are All In The Mind

By James Doherty and Kath Gourlay
The Scotsman
(Click on headline to read original story)

It's a scientific fact: human brains are programmed for orgasms - with or without the actual sex act.

Perhaps nobody listening to football commentators will be surprised by the news, claimed to have been proven by one of the lecturers at this week’s Orkney International Science Festival. Dr Robert Lomas - a solid-state physicist and an internationally known author on religious symbolism - says that evolution has allowed humans to develop the sex-free orgasm.

"It’s the same reward mechanism that encourages us to share our DNA," said Dr Lomas. "But it can be achieved without the physical act of copulation."

Only humans have this power to induce mental ecstasy, and it’s a complex set of responses that can be achieved by learned behavioural patterns or triggered by hyper-arousal during peak experiences, he says.

"At times of hyper-arousal, our brains are designed to freeload on the behavioural reward that encourages us to reproduce," he said. "And that is another name for orgasm."

For those who laughed at the idea of the Barbarella-type "orgasmatron" - Jane Fonda popping pills, touching palms with her bemused boyfriend and staying three feet away from him - Dr Lomas says the film is closer to science fact than fiction. "If the orgasmic response in her brain was being triggered by a programmed release of chemically or electrically stimulated hormones, it could be done, if the programming was right," he said.

However, the days of a drug being widely available on the NHS are still a long way off.

"Artificially creating the right combination of neuropeptides is very complex," Dr Lomas explained. "Your tension and relaxation levels have to be in perfect balance before your arousal system is tripped. It’s like trying to balance a marble on the tip of a ballpoint pen."

Dr Lomas said the trigger factors leading to that elusive brain state have to be induced through repetitive behavioural patterns using ritual and posture.

"All these mystics haven’t really given up sex," said Dr Lomas. "It’s just a different form of orgasm."

This analysis forms the basis of the fifth book in the Hiram Key series, which has produced controversial theories on the mindset of man from pre- history to the present day.

Turning the Hiram Key looks like keeping to that tradition, with detailed discussion on how masonic ritual contains the elements needed for inducing mental ecstasy.

Dr Cynthia McVey, a psychologist from Glasgow Caledonian University, said that from puberty onwards, achieving orgasm without sexual contact happens in our dreams.

"With nocturnal emissions, there is no sex act involved there," she said. "That shows the power of the brain over the body. In order to propagate the species, we need sex.

"Pain provides a safety mechanism to preserve the body and, in the same way, we must be programmed to experience a sexual interlude as pleasurable - it helps to propagate the species."

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