The Science of Neurotheology: God in Your Mind

We’re the one species on the planet recognized to follow faith. This function is common amongst people: there is no such thing as a nation on Earth that doesn’t follow one or one other type of non secular perception.

The query is what makes our mind completely different in order that we follow spirituality? Does faith serve any objective to our species when it comes to benefiting survival and progress? These questions are very philosophical. Many thinkers imagine that religiosity is what distinguishes Homo sapiens from the remainder of the animal kingdom and introduced our species to dominate this planet. Then again, a big numbers of thinkers imagine that faith impedes progress and retains our society in a barbaric state.

There isn’t a doubt that faith performed a vital position in early human historical past: offering the primary explanations for the existence of the world round us. The necessity for such clarification highlights an vital step within the growth of the mind and cognitive processes.

Behavioral traits would possibly turn into strengthened by evolution if they carry survival advantages. Researchers assume that altruism, for example, is this type of behavioral trait: it may be disadvantageous for a selected particular person at a selected occasion, however it brings benefits to the species basically. Altruistic conduct is promoted by nearly all of the world’s religions. Subsequently, non secular practices may need offered evolutionary benefits for early people when it comes to survival too.

Some individuals are so deeply non secular that the system of beliefs they follow shapes their complete life. It could be cheap to imagine that one thing attention-grabbing needs to be occurring of their mind. It’s also fairly probably that these mind processes are completely different from the processes within the brains of unbelievers. That is what the brand new science of neurotheology is aiming to check. Neurotheology investigates the neural correlates of spiritual and non secular beliefs. Such research could assist to uncover why some individuals are extra inclined in the direction of spirituality, whereas others stay deeply skeptical about the entire thought of God’s existence.

Check out BrainBlogger for more psychology and neuroscience articles

There are already some attention-grabbing findings from the sector of neuroscience that may assist to open the window into the non secular mind.

First, there is no such thing as a single a part of the mind which is “accountable” for a person’s relationship with their God/s. Like several emotionally intense human expertise, non secular experiences entails a number of elements and programs of the mind. A number of experiments with using mind scanners affirm this viewpoint. In a single research, Carmelite nuns had been requested to recollect their most intense mystical expertise whereas neuroimaging of their mind was performed. The loci of activation on this experiment had been noticed in the suitable medial orbitofrontal cortex, proper center temporal cortex, proper inferior and superior parietal lobules, proper caudate, left medial prefrontal cortex, left anterior cingulate cortex, left inferior parietal lobule, left insula, left caudate, and left brainstem.

Equally, an fMRI research on non secular Mormon topics discovered areas of activation within the nucleus accumbens, ventromedial prefrontal cortex, and frontal attentional areas. The nucleus accumbens is the mind space related to reward. It’s also concerned in emotional responses to like, intercourse, medicine, and music. One current research additionally recognized a lot of modifications in regional cortical volumes which might be related to a number of parts of religiosity, akin to an intimate relationship with God and concern of God.

It seems probably that life-changing non secular experiences could also be linked to modifications in mind construction. As an example, one research demonstrated that the brains of older adults who reported such experiences function a level of hippocampal atrophy. Hippocampal atrophy is a crucial issue within the growth of despair, dementia, and Alzheimer’s illness. It stays unclear precisely how structural modifications within the mind and the extent of religiosity relate to one another.

It’s well-known that some medicine simulate non secular experiences. As an example, psilosybin, the lively ingredient in “magic mushrooms”, stimulates temporal lobes and mimics non secular experiences. This means that spirituality is rooted in neuronal physiology. It’s no marvel that psychoactive compounds are sometimes utilized in ritualistic and shamanistic practices around the globe.

All research that contain mind imaging of individuals in particular states endure from one main limitation: it’s exhausting to make sure that individuals are truly in that individual state on the time of measurement. As an example, if we measure the mind exercise when a topic is meant to resolve a mathematical activity, we are able to’t be 100% positive that his or her thoughts will not be questioning round as an alternative of specializing in the duty. The identical applies to the measurement of any non secular state. Subsequently, the patterns of mind activation obtained by means of mind imaging shouldn’t be seen as final proof of any concept.

Numerous non secular practices have the potential to affect our well being, in each constructive and destructive instructions. It was famous that non secular folks, basically, have a decrease danger of tension and despair. This, in flip, is linked to a stronger immune system. Then again, folks engaged in non secular struggles would possibly expertise the alternative results. Analysis into the mind’s response to non secular practices would possibly assist to develop additional our understanding of the connection between well being and spirituality.



Beauregard M and Paquette V (2006) Neural correlates of a mystical expertise in Carmelite nuns. Neuroscience Letters 405(three):186-90. DOI: 10.1016/j.neulet.2006.06.060.

Ferguson MA et al. (2016) Reward, salience, and attentional networks are activated by non secular expertise in religious Mormons. Social Neuroscience: 1–13. doi:10.1080/17470919.2016.1257437.

Griffiths RR et al. (2006) Psilocybin can event mystical-type experiences having substantial and sustained private that means and non secular significance. Psychopharmacology. 187 (three): 268–83; dialogue 284–92. doi:10.1007/s00213-Zero06-0457-5.

Griffiths RR et al. (2008) Mystical-type experiences occasioned by psilocybin mediate the attribution of non-public that means and non secular significance 14 months later. Journal of psychopharmacology. 22 (6): 621–32. doi:10.1177/0269881108094300.

Kapogiannis D et al. (2009) Neuroanatomical Variability of Religiosity. PLoS ONE4(9): e7180.

Kapogiannis D et al. (2009). Cognitive and neural foundations of spiritual perception. Proceedings of the Nationwide Academy of Sciences of the US of America, 106(12), 4876–4881.

Owen AD et al. (2011) Non secular elements and hippocampal atrophy in late life. PLoS ONE. 6 (three): e17006. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0017006.

Sayadmansour A (2014) Neurotheology: The connection between mind and faith. Iranian Journal of Neurology, 13(1), 52–55.

This visitor article initially appeared on the award-winning well being and science weblog and brain-themed neighborhood, BrainBlogger: God within the Mind: The Science of Neurotheology.

Associated Articles