Neuro-research says religion’s good for the brain

Neuro-research experiments show religion’s good for the brain.

Researchers from the University of Utah designed an experiment to see what happens when people think spiritual thoughts.

Dr. Jeffrey Anderson, a neuro-radiologist at the University of Utah says religious neuroscience is a young field. Very few studies have been undertaken.

The researchers found experiences believers interpret as spiritual, divine or transcendent link to the brain’s reward centre.

This part of the brain’s medical name is nucleus accumbens.

The frontal attentional, associated with focused attention, and ventromedial prefrontal cortical loci, associated with moral reasoning, also engage when believers face spiritual stimulants.

The experiment involved scanning the brains of 19 devout young Mormons as they thought about God.

Each of them had to complete four tasks designed to evoke spiritual feelings, while their brains were monitored by a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanner.

The study participants watched a six-minute church announcement about membership and financial statements and prayed for six minutes.

They also read scripture for eight minutes, read religious quotes for eight minutes and watched videos of “Mormon Messages” produced by the Latter Day Saints Church.

During the tests, the participants had to either rate their spiritual feelings on a scale of one to four, or press a button when they had feelings of spirituality.

“When our study participants were instructed to think about a saviour, about being with their families for eternity, about their heavenly rewards, their brains and bodies physically responded,” the study’s lead author Michael Ferguson said.

Ferguson is a bioengineering graduate student at the University of Utah.

The research report noted: “based on fMRI scans, the researchers found that powerful spiritual feelings were associated with activity in the area of the brain associated with processing reward. ”

The researchers say this section of the brain is also stimulated by love, sex, drugs and gambling.

About 5.8 billion people world wide claim affiliation to a religion.


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