60-Second Mind

God in the Brain?

As neuroscientists search for brain circuits that lead to religious experiences, they're touching on some of our deepest questions - like, could religion be explained by a neural quirk? For more on this story, see David Biello's article, "Searching for God in the Brain" in this month's issue of Scientific American Mind.

Does God have a place in your life?  Or a place in your mind? Neuroscientists have searched for an elusive “God spot” in the brain for decades.
But could religion be nothing but a neural quirk in a specific spot?
Well neural quirk maybe – but a specific spot, probably not.
Just like you can’t find the region of soul in a blues band, it’s nearly impossible to find one region of cosmic bliss within the brain circuits. Rather, religious experience is the result of an orchestra of regions, according to neuroscientist Mario Beauregard, at University of Montreal.
In 2006 he studied the brains of 15 nuns using fMRI, and found that when the nuns recalled vivid connections with God, six separate areas of their brains lit up.
Today spiritual neuroscientists are digging deeper attempting to answer some pretty sensitive questions… like what is the neural difference between a feeling of connecting with God and connecting with the universe? Can we induce a religious-like feeling in an atheist? Or here’s the biggie:  Does finding a neuronal source for divinity, prove God’s existence?
For more on how neuroscience is closing in on philosophy, see David Biello’s article in the November issue of Scientific American Mind – titled: Searching for God in the Brain.

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