The mind experiences spirituality in many places, many ways, new study finds
COLUMBIA, 4/25/12 (Beat Byte) -- Laying to rest a scientific speculation that the human brain features one distinct area of the brain responsible for spirituality -- a "God spot" -- Mizzou researcher Brick Johnstone and colleagues conclude that spirituality is a complex phenomenon, and multiple areas of the brain are involved.
Decreased right parietal lobe functioning and increased frontal lobe activity are both related to spiritualism, the researchers found in different studies.
"We have found a neuropsychological basis for spirituality, but it's not isolated to one specific area of the brain," said Johnstone, professor of health psychology in the School of Health Professions. "Spirituality is a much more dynamic concept that uses many parts of the brain."
The right side of the brain is associated with self-interaction, whereas the left side is associated with how we interact with others, Johnstone explained. Expanding on previous studies that show people with right-sided brain impairment focus less on themselves, Johnstone surveyed 20 people with traumatic brain injuries affecting the right parietal lobe, above the right ear. He found increased feelings of closeness to a higher power among the group.
Increased frontal lobe activity and increased participation in religious practices are also related, Johnstone found, indicating that "spiritual experiences are likely associated with different parts of the brain," he said.
Meditation and prayer have long been associated with brain function in specific regions, a subject this writer has covered extensively, particularly in the work of University of Pennsylvania radiologist Andrew Newberg
. But where Newberg used physical means to measure spiritual responses, watching regions of the brain increase or decrease activity with imaging tools, Johnstone's work takes the concept a step further, studying daily life habits of spiritual people. His study was published in the International Journal for the Psychology of Religion