Friday, November 28, 2014 Headlines & Global News

BDSM Good For You? Study Finds Sadomasochism Causes Altered State Of Consciousness

By Oulimata Ba | Feb 24, 2014 05:01 PM EST

Sadomasochism Has Meditative Benefits, Study Finds.
New research concludes that those who practice BDSM experience lower levels of stress, along with an altered state of consciousness. (Photo : Reuters)

In a very "Fifty Shades of Grey"-like study, several researchers concluded that engaging in sadomasochism can transport the mind to another state of consciousness, and can have meditative benefits such as decreased anxiety, Live Science reported last week.

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Sadomasochism, or the sexual practice of receiving or inflicting pain, has traditionally been classified as an abnormal, pathological condition. Sadomasochism is associated with BDSM, which stands for bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism.

But according to one study published last May, researchers found that people who practice BDSM were healthier than those who have regular, or "vanilla," sex, Live Science reported.

In another study, Northern Illinois University graduate student James Ambler wanted to find out why people engage in BDSM if it involves pain.

"It seems, on the surface, very paradoxical," Ambler told Live Science.

Ambler asked people who practice BDSM that both give and receive pain- "switches"- to play a certain role for one night. The volunteers, 10 of whom were women, completed a test where they saw a word for a color written in the ink of another color. The word blue, for example, would be written in red ink. The test, titled Stroop test, is a popular cognitive test because it is more difficult for the brain to determine what the color is when it's written with another color, Live Science reported.

At the end of the study, those whose role it was to receive pain had low Stroop test scores. This means the part of the brain responsible for the working memory and other executive control was temporarily dysfunctional.  

In other words, the pain is linked to a reduction in blood flow to that part of the brain, changing a person's state of consciousness. This is why sadomasochism is appealing, Ambler told Live Science.

"Part of the reason these SM activities may be so extreme, at some level, is that they're particularly effective at causing the brain to change its distribution of blood flow," Ambler told Live Science.

Illinois University graduate student Ellen Lee conducted another study exploring the nonsexual side of sadomasochism.

Lee examined a "Dane of the Souls" ritual, a nonsexual practice where people receive temporary skin piercings. Hooks attached to ropes are placed through the piercings, Live Science reported. One person's ropes are then attached to another person's or to an inanimate object, while music plays in the background.

Lee found that the 22 participants had higher levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, during the actual piercing. However, after the ritual the participants said they felt more relaxed, Lee told Live Science. The point of the ritual is to produce "energy pulls" that are not sexual, but spiritual, Lee's advisor, Brad Sagarin, told Live Science.

"Research would suggest that a substantial minority of people do either fantasize or participate in these activities," Sagarin told Live Science. "There is relevance to it in terms of the number of people either directly or indirectly involved."

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