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How are the Brain and Religion Connected?

By kansamabob     Jan 29, 2007 in Health
Neuroscienctists are now performing experiments using brain imaging technology to perform experiments on the brain's of people while performing religious activities. It is now becoming clearer how the brain is involved in religious/spiritual practices.
As religion plays such an important part in the lives of many people, people naturally begin to wonder how our brain process the concept of religion, God, and spirituality in general. Scientists have begun to look at it from a medical and neuroscientific perspective. I found it extremely interesting how modern brain imaging techniques are able to show how age old beliefs take place.
The article states, "Among other changes, both groups showed decreased activity in the parts of the brain that have to do with sense of self and spatial orientation — which suggests the description of oneness with God, of transcendence sometimes experienced in meditation or prayer."
Apparently, people who are deep in prayer actually are in a state of mental selflessness!
For me, the most intriguing line of this whole article was, "Prayer and meditation also increase levels of dopamine, often referred to as the brain’s pleasure hormone." Dopamine is also the chemical that is lacking in Parkinson's disease, causing a loss in motor movement ability. So does this mean that increased prayer and meditation could have implications on a potential cure for Parkinson's Disease? It may sound a little far fetched, but one of the scientists said, "'Now there’s the recognition that a truly effective treatment plan is not just giving a pill.'”
These experiments are also awe inspiring in the sense that scientists are now able to establish a direct link between science and religion. Soon, we will be able to know exactly how religion helps us and affects our brains. At the same time, the question remains whether we believe because we choose to or not. As Dr. Newberg says, "'The brain is a believing machine because it has to be, Beliefs affect every part of our lives. They make us who we are. They are the essence of our being.'"
Regardless of the actual religious belief, this research has great potential. Hopefully this will help people understand themselves, their religion, and contribute towards a medical cure at the same time.
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