New paper on brain correlates of spiritual experience

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I gather this isn't the first thing in this line, but here you go.

Columbia and Yale scientists found the spiritual part of our brains—religion not required
Ephrat Livni - May 30, 2018

Quote:Scientists seek to quantify everything—even the ineffable. And so the human search for meaning recently took a physical turn as Columbia and Yale University researchers isolated the place in our brains that processes spiritual experiences.

In a new study, published in Cerebral Cortex (paywall) on May 29, neuroscientists explain how they generated “personally relevant” spiritual experiences in a diverse group of subjects and scanned their brains while these experiences were happening. The results indicate that there is a “neurobiological home” for spirituality. When we feel a sense of connection with something greater than the self—whether transcendence involves communion with God, nature, or humanity—a certain part of the brain appears to activate.

The study suggests that there is universal, cognitive basis for spirituality, as opposed to a cultural grounding for such states. This new discovery, researchers say, could help improve mental health treatment down the line.
Read the rest of the article here:

(Or if you're really, really interested, you can access the actual journal article here...)
(This post was last modified: 2018-06-04, 02:51 AM by Ninshub.)
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  • Sciborg_S_Patel, Brian
I appreciated that they described what they found as an effect rather than a cause:

Quote:During their varied transcendent states, all subjects showed similar activity patterns in the parietal cortex, which processes sensation, spatial orientation, and language, and is thought to influence attention, among other functions. In other words, whether the thing that makes a person feel connected to something greater involves church, trees, or a stadium full of sports fans, it appears to have the same effect on the brain.

My concern with any of these studies is that the untrained eye will consider this to mean that the area that is "lighting up" on the fMRI during the studies is indisputably creating or producing the transcendental experience, as opposed to just being correlated with or perceiving/processing it, since studies like this one say nothing about the causal arrow as far as what actually is doing the generating.
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  • Typoz, tim, Ninshub
Thanks for that article, Ian. I had a look through it. There's nothing new there as I'm sure you know. Melvin Morse based his approach to NDE's (initially that is) on there being some identifiable area of the brain (temporal parietal lobe) and termed it the God spot.

Mario Beauregard's/Denice O'Learys book, The Spiritual Brain deals with it, although as I recall, they found "reduced" brain activity associated with "transcendental states" in meditating nuns that they scanned. I'm not sure where we're at now to be honest and I've largely lost interest in the understandable obsession of neurologists trying to map out the brain.

I find the 'Human Connectome' project a prime example of when the exuberance of 'scientists' massively exceeds their grasp of any substance to support it. Like displaying the finishing line (here and now) for a theoretical race to the end of the universe, before we've even discovered a method of propulsion to get there.  
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  • Typoz, Doug, Ninshub
Can we now attribute possible survival value to spirituality like we do to the other instincts?
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  • tim

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