Spirituality Linked To Brain Damage

February 17th, 2010 | Tags: , , , , ,

Links to Spirituality Found in the Brain

Scientists have identified areas of the brain that, when damaged, lead to greater spirituality. The findings hint at the roots of spiritual and religious attitudes, the researchers say.

The study, published in the Feb. 11 issue of the journal Neuron, involves a personality trait called self-transcendence, which is a somewhat vague measure of spiritual feeling, thinking, and behaviors. Self-transcendence “reflects a decreased sense of self and an ability to identify one’s self as an integral part of the universe as a whole,” the researchers explain.

Before and after surgery, the scientists surveyed patients who had brain tumors removed. The surveys generate self-transcendence scores.

Selective damage to the left and right posterior parietal regions of the brain induced a specific increase in self-transcendence, or ST, the surveys showed.

“Our symptom-lesion mapping study is the first demonstration of a causative link between brain functioning and ST,” said Dr. Cosimo Urgesi from the University of Udine in Italy. “Damage to posterior parietal areas induced unusually fast changes of a stable personality dimension related to transcendental self-referential awareness. Thus, dysfunctional parietal neural activity may underpin altered spiritual and religious attitudes and behaviors.”

Previous neuroimaging studies had linked activity within a large network in the brain that connects the frontal, parietal, and temporal cortexes with spiritual experiences, “but information on the causative link between such a network and spirituality is lacking,” explains lead study author, Urgesi said.

One study, reported in 2008, suggested that the brain’s right parietal lobe defines “Me,” and people with less active Me-Definers are more likely to lead spiritual lives.

The finding could lead to new strategies for treating some forms of mental illness.

“If a stable personality trait like ST can undergo fast changes as a consequence of brain lesions, it would indicate that at least some personality dimensions may be modified by influencing neural activity in specific areas,” said Dr. Salvatore M. Aglioti from Sapienza University of Rome. “Perhaps novel approaches aimed at modulating neural activity might ultimately pave the way to new treatments of personality disorders.”

  1. Michael M
    February 18th, 2010 at 08:37
    Reply | Quote | #1

    Here’s another article on this that goes a little more in depth:


  2. Spoonman
    February 18th, 2010 at 10:30
    Reply | Quote | #2

    “might ultimately pave the way to new treatments of personality disorders.”

    Such as…theism. Wouldn’t it be great if we could just give them all a pill and they’d stop believing this stupid shit? Hell, put it in the water! The next generation would be as cognizant of what a “god” is as they are a “typewriter”. Both serve equal levels of purposefulness in the modern world.

  3. Greenworld
    February 18th, 2010 at 20:52
    Reply | Quote | #3

    I do not like it when people compare human spirituality to organized religion.

  4. Ian
    February 18th, 2010 at 23:44
    Reply | Quote | #4

    Spirituality is one of those extremely loose terms that can mean almost anything.

    • Greenworld
      February 19th, 2010 at 17:44
      Reply | Quote | #5

      When I think of “spirituality,” I think of a state of tranquility and peace for either yourself or also others. Religious dogma being considered “spiritual” is an oxymoron, and a grave insult to humanity’s emotional needs.

  5. derby
    February 19th, 2010 at 09:59
    Reply | Quote | #6

    Interestingly, you missed the funny story attatched to this one that said spiritual woman have more sex. Kinda makes you want to go hang out at a religious college, just in case! =)