Courtesy of the University of Missouri and World Science staff
Multiple parts of the human brain contribute to spirituality, so there is no single ‘God spot’ in that organ of the mind as scientists have speculated, a study indicates.
University of Missouri scientists sought to replicate a previous study finding linking a sense of spiritual ‘transcendence’ with lowered activity in a brain region called the right parietal lobe. That finding held up, but the researchers also determined that other aspects of spiritual functioning are related to increased activity in another part of the brain.
‘It’s not isolated to one specific area,’ said Brick Johnstone, a psychologist at the university who worked on the study. ‘Spirituality is a much more dynamic concept that uses many parts of the brain. Certain parts of the brain play more predominant roles, but they all work together.’
The greater the injury, the greater the feeling of being closer to a higher power
Johnstone studied 20 people with traumatic brain injuries affecting the right parietal lobe, which lies a few inches above the right ear. He surveyed participants on characteristics of spirituality, such as how close they felt to a higher power and whether they felt their lives were part of a divine plan. He found that people with worse injuries to that area felt closer to a higher power.
‘Researchers consistently have shown that impairment on the right side of the brain decreases one’s focus on the self,’ Johnstone noted. ‘Since our research shows that people with this impairment are more spiritual, this suggests spiritual experiences are associated with a decreased focus on the self. This is consistent with many religious texts that suggest people should concentrate on the well-being of others rather than on themselves.’
The right half of the brain is associated with self-orientation; the left, with relationships to others, Johnstone explained. Although he studied only brain injury patients, previous work with Buddhist meditators and Franciscan nuns has found that people can learn to minimise the functioning of their right brains to increase spiritual ‘connections’ during meditation and prayer.
Johnstone also found a correlation between increased activity in a part of the brain called the frontal lobe – just behind the forehead – and greater participation in religious practices, such as church attendance and listening to religious programs. The study is published in the International Journal of the Psychology of Religion.
Source: World Science, http://www.world-science.net