Source of Spirituality Found
February 10, 2010 in Medicine
Obviously religion and spirituality are not the same thing (one can have a lot of one of these without much of the other). Prior studies have found that religious ideation involves diffuse brain cortical areas in the frontal and parietal lobes but feelings of spirituality appear to involve at least two much more focal areas further back towards the rear of the brain.
To investigate the neural basis of spirituality, Cosimo Urgesi, a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of Udine, and his colleagues turned to people with brain tumours to assess the feeling before and after surgery. Three to seven days after the removal of tumours from the posterior part of the brain, in the parietal cortex, patients reported feeling a greater sense of self-transcendence. This was not the case for patients with tumours removed from the frontal regions of the brain.
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The authors pinpointed two parts of the brain that, when damaged, led to increases in spirituality: the left inferior parietal lobe and the right angular gyrus. These areas at the back of the brain are involved in how we perceive our bodies in spatial relation to the external world. The authors of the study in the journal Neuron1, say that their findings support the connection between mystic experiences and feeling detached from the body.
In other news, spiritual people are more likely to be brain damaged. And by supposition, the more rational people are more likely to have structurally normal areas of the left inferior parietal lobe and the right angular gyrus.