It’s widely known from neuroimaging studies that there’s a link between spirituality and activity in certain parts of the human brain, but a new report published in the February 11 issue of the journal Neuron (summarized here) is shedding light on the causal relationship between them. The team from the University of Udine in Italy did a study on the specific personality trait called self-transcendence (ST), which reflects “a decreased sense of self and an ability to identify one’s self as an integral part of the universe as a whole.” It’s more colloquially described as a feeling of “oneness with the universe” and is thought to be a measure of spiritual feeling.
What the researchers did was to analyze ST scores from patients before and after surgery to remove brain tumors. Using advanced techniques, they were able to map the exact locations of brain lesions after surgery and, as Dr. Franco Fabbro of the research team explains, “This approach allowed us to explore the possible changes of ST induced by specific brain lesions and the causative role played by frontal, temporal, and parietal structures in supporting interindividual differences in ST.”
What they discovered was that selective damage to the left and right posterior parietal regions caused a specific increase in ST, or as team leader Dr. Cosimo Urgesi put it, “Damage to posterior parietal areas induced unusually fast changes of a stable personality dimension related to transcendental self-referential awareness. Thus, dysfunctional parietal neural activity may underpin altered spiritual and religious attitudes and behaviors.” It’s the first study that demonstrates a causitive link between brain function and ST and may eventually lead to new treatments for personality disorders through modulation of neural activities in specific parts of the brain. One possible area of application might be in patients with schizophrenia. The relationship between schizophrenia and high levels of religiousity has been explored in many studies.
1) the human brain
If you like my articles, you can click on “subscribe” at the top of the page to receive notice when new ones are posted.
You might also enjoy these:
- Happy birthday, Thomas Paine!
- Michael Shermer presents The Baloney Detection Kit
- Name a mountain for Reagan? The Devil you say!
- 58 groups urge end to Bush era Faith-Based hiring rules
- Israel, Palestine and critical thinking