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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Selflessness Linked to Brain Function

Regardless of cultural background or religion, our brains function in a certain, similar way during spiritual experiences, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Missouri's Center on Religion & the Professions. Specifically, the findings suggest that spiritual experiences associated with selflessness—like transcendence (feelings of universal unity)—are related to decreased activity in the right parietal lobe, an area in the back of the brain.
The research team, led by Brick Johnstone, a professor of health psychology and head of CORP's spirituality and health research team, found that people with injuries to the right parietal lobe of the brain reported higher levels of spiritual experiences. This means, the researchers say, that we can potentially teach ourselves to achieve selflessness and spiritual transcendence by learning to decrease activity in that part of the brain through meditation and prayer.
The study, published in the journal Zygon, "suggests that ‘selflessness’ is a neuropsychological foundation of spiritual experiences," says Johnstone, but it "does not in any way minimize the importance of religion or personal beliefs, nor does it suggest that spiritual experience are related only to neuropsychological activity in the brain. It is important to note that individuals experience their God or higher power in many different ways, but that all people from all religions and beliefs appear to experience these connections in a similar way.” —Heather Wax


Anonymous said...

Once again, those studying the brain fail to acknowledge that they do not know whether they are observing cause or effect. I wonder whether their research in this instance has looked for factors in the lives of their subjects beyond the obvious physical condition of the brain?