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Researchers report in a new study today that they have found regions of the brain that seem to impact a person's level of spirituality.
The researchers worked with 88 patients with tumors in various locations in the brain and found that those with damage in the parietal region -- located in the top rear region of the brain -- could be seen to have a change in their attitude toward spirituality, something that tends to be relatively constant in a person.
"This finding highlights the key role of parietal cortices in spirituality and suggests that changes of neural activity in specific areas may modify even inherently stable dispositional traits," explained Cosimo Urgesi, one of the study's lead researchers and an assistant professor in psychobiology and physiological psychology at the University of Udine in Italy.
The specific scale researchers used to determine spirituality is known as self-transcendence, a measure used to determine spirituality that appears to remain stable in a person over time.
Acclaimed by a wide range of experts, The "God" Part of the Brain is a classic. Matthew Alper presents a stunning argument: that our brain is hardwired to believe in a God. He offers a scientific explanation that we inherit an evolutionary mechanism that allows us to cope with our greatest terror - death.
The author also evokes his personal odyssey as he sought to understand why mankind created the concept of a higher power to deal with the fear and terror we experience due to our species' unique awareness of the inevitability of death.
The "God" Part of the Brain has sparked praise by scientists such as E.O. Wilson, a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner; E. Fuller Torry, "the most famous psychiatrist in America"; and Arnold Sadwin, former Chief of Neuropsychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania. The book has been adopted by universities across the country.
- Source: Description as cited by Amazon.com
Following C.S. Lewis's dictum that to 'see through' all things is the same as not to see, neuroscientist Beauregard and journalist O'Leary mount a sweeping critique of a trend in the pop science media to explain away religious experience as a brain artifact, pathology or evolutionary quirk. While sympathizing with the attraction such neurotheology holds, the authors warn against the temptation to force the complex varieties of human spirituality into simplistic categories that they argue are conceptually crude, culturally biased and often empirically untested. In recently published research using Carmelite nuns as subjects, Beauregard's group at the University of Montreal found specific areas of brain activation associated with contemplative prayer. But these patterns are quite distinct from those associated with hallucinations, autosuggestion or states of intense emotional arousal, resembling instead how the brain processes real experiences. Insisting that we have never entertained the idea of proving the existence of God, the authors concede that the results of our work are assumed to be a strike either for or against God and that on the whole, we [don't] mind. Never shrinking from controversy, and sometimes deliberately provoking it, this book serves as a lively introduction to a field where neuroscience, philosophy, and secular/spiritual cultural wars are unavoidably intermingled.
- Source: Publishers Weekly, as cited by Amazon.com
More than half of adult Americans report they have had a spiritual experience that changed their lives. Now, scientists from universities like Harvard, Pennsylvania and Johns Hopkins are using new technologies to analyze the brains of people who claim they have touched the spiritual — from Christians who speak in tongues to Buddhist monks to people who claim to have had near-death experiences. Hear what they have discovered in this controversial field, as the science of spirituality continues to evolve.
Neurotheology, also known as spiritual neuroscience, is the study of correlations of neural phenomena with subjective experiences of spirituality and hypotheses to explain these phenomena. Proponents of neurotheology claim that there is a neurological and evolutionary basis for subjective experiences traditionally categorized as spiritual or religious.
- Source: Neurotheology, Wikipedia entry [Last accessed, Feb. 14, 2010 2:17pm CET]
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