See Inside December 2006/January 2007

God (Neurons) May Be Everywhere

Nuns volunteered to recall intense mystical experiences while being scanned in an MRI machine.

In many faiths, a specific place is reserved for the ritual of reaching out to God, be it a church, synagogue, mosque or some other venue. Researchers recently examined whether certain brain locations are specially activated when a religious believer communes with his or her deity.

About a decade ago scientists advanced the hypothesis that neural activity during religious rapture occurs in a “God module” in the temporal lobes. The theory was inspired by the study of epilepsy patients in whom temporal lobe seizures induced mystical feelings. Results from a study by Mario Beauregard and Vincent Paquette of the University of Montreal, however, suggest that the neural activity that accompanies spiritual enlightenment is usually more complex.

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