Using data sets from brain-injured and neurosurgery patients, researchers have mapped the locations of injuries associated with sudden and radical changes in religious or spiritual beliefs. The result points to a specific brain circuit.
Quite a few people in the world consider themselves religious or with some kind of spiritual beliefs. But research in the neuroscience field of spirituality and religiosity has been scant. Many of the previous studies have been based on subjecting the individual to a brain scan while performing a task to see which areas of the brain are active and consequently light up. However, many experts believe that these studies have given a spotty and often incoherent picture of spirituality.
A new study, carried out by Michael Ferguson’s team, from the BWH (Brigham and Women’s Hospital) in Boston in the United States, has taken a new approach to mapping religiosity and spirituality. Thanks to this new approach, the study authors have found that beliefs of this type tend to manifest in a specific brain circuit. This brain circuit focuses on the periaqueductal gray matter, a region of the brainstem that appears to be involved in quite a few functions, including fear conditioning, pain modulation, altruistic behaviors, and unconditional love.
“Our results suggest that spirituality and religiosity are embedded in fundamental neurobiological dynamics and deeply interwoven in our neural tissue,” explains Ferguson. “We were surprised to find that this brain circuit for spirituality is centered on one of the most evolutionarily conserved structures in the brain.”
The new study has revealed that religiosity resides in a specific circuit of the human brain. (Photo: Amazings / NCYT)
The study, entitled “Neural circuit for spirituality and religiosity derived from patients with brain lesions,” has been published in the academic journal Biological Psychiatry. (Source: NCYT from Amazings)