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.
Fifteen Carmelite nuns volunteered to recall the most intense mystical experience of their lives while being scanned in an MRI machine. It was not possible to observe spontaneous revelation, which the nuns believe is a product of God's grace. The researchers watched as neurons fired in the right temporal lobe and several other brain domains, including the caudate nucleus—associated with emotions such as love and happiness—and the superior parietal lobule, responsible for the spatial perception of self. Beauregard's conclusion: “There is no single God spot.”