Serene woman in bathrobe meditating in lotus position on bed.
Serene woman in bathrobe meditating in lotus position on bed.

As it turns out, orgasm might not be the most important part of sex.

New research from UCLA neuorscientiest Nicole Prause aims to better understand the female orgasm and whether it could have unforeseen health benefits, according to Men’s Health. Her work suggests that the deactivation, the relaxed state of zoning out, that precedes orgasm might be the most pleasurable moments of sex.

Prause used an EEG (electroencephalogram) to measure brain activity while her text subjects masturbated. Her method emphasizes the timing of orgasm more than previous research in the field, which has focused more on where the brain activity related to orgasm occurs.

The “sympathetic nervous system switch” theory, the term Prause coined for her discovery, claims that both the path toward orgasm and orgasm itself are connected to our normal consciousness essentially turning off. Previous research argued that only climax itself had this quality, while Prause portends that foreplay too sends us into a trance-like state. The state of relaxation that marks the height of sexual pleasure peaks before orgasm even takes place.

“For Prause, it’s not that the orgasm triggers deactivations in the brain; it’s that the deactivations in the brain are necessary to trigger orgasm,” wrote Jerilyn Covert of the Men’s Health.

This research has implications for both sexual and medical research. Prause compares the trance-like nature of what precedes orgasm to meditation. She suspects that sex could eventually be prescribed as a form of therapy with potential to treat conditions ranging from depression to arthritis.