Some experts proposed some time ago that the human brain might have a distinct area responsible for underlying spirituality and religious beliefs, called the God spot. A study conducted by experts at the University of Missouri says that no such area of the brain exists.
Rather, the team argues, the brain constructs spiritual beliefs and experiences based on the contributions of numerous regions of the brain. The phenomenon itself is very complex, scientists add.
UM School of Health Professions professor of health psychology, Dr. Brick Johnstone, says that his team essentially found a neuropsychological basis for spirituality. The new investigation demonstrates that no center for religious beliefs exists in the human brain.
Johnstone explains that spirituality is a very complex, very dynamic concept, whose foundations span the entire brain. Some regions naturally play more important roles, but the contribution of all is necessary to facilitate spiritual experiences.
The UM team conducted its latest investigation on the issue on a group of 20 individuals suffering from traumatic brain injuries. All test subjects had the right parietal lobe most severely affected by their wounds, PsychCentral
Participants were asked about whether or not they felt as if their lives were part of a divine plan, and about how close they felt to a higher power, if any. Those with the most severe injuries to the right parietal lobe reported they felt a deeper connection to something above themselves.
“Neuropsychology researchers consistently have shown that impairment on the right side of the brain decreases one’s focus on the self,” Johnstone explains. The study is detailed in the latest issue of the esteemed International Journal of the Psychology of Religion.
“Since our research shows that people with this impairment are more spiritual, this suggests spiritual experiences are associated with a decreased focus on the self,” the investigator goes on to say.
“This is consistent with many religious texts that suggest people should concentrate on the well-being of others rather than on themselves,” he adds. The expert also found a direct correlation between increased activity in the frontal lobe of the brain and the frequency of people's religious attendance.
In previous studies, Johnstone and his team demonstrated that French nuns and Buddhist meditators were able to suppress neural activity in the right lobe of their brains, and that this led to increased feelings of connectedness to a higher power.