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September 12, 2006
'God Net' Not 'God Spot' Says Latest Neurotheological Experiment
Why do different gods exist? Why do certain tribes subscribe to one god over another or even to many gods? Can neurotechnology help us better understand our relationship to our belief in higher powers?
Until recently, religion and spirituality were deemed as cultural, a product of social conditioning, and not biological. Religious beliefs and spirituality was the 'playing field' for theologists and philosophers, not biologists and scientists. Many scientists were skeptical and unwilling to consider the spiritual as science.
Now neurotheological researchers around the globe are examining what specifically happens within the brain when a person has a “religious” or “spiritual” experience. The latest controversy revolves around whether or not there is a 'God Spot', a singular spiritual center in the brain, a module of neural circuits specifically designed for religious experience.
Speculation about the God Spot was triggered in 1997 when a team at the University of California, San Diego, saw that people with temporal-lobe epilepsy were prone to religious hallucinations which lead some researchers to stimulate temporal lobes artificially to see if he could induce a religious state. They found that this could create a "sensed presence".
However, recently a group of Carmelite nuns have been assisting scientists in their quest to discover a circuit of nerves in the brain to explain man’s almost universal belief in a deity. As part of their research they found no God Spot. "The God module, as some scientists call it, is a mirage," according to the study by Dr Mario Beauregard of the Department of Psychology at the Université de Montréal published in the journal Neuroscience Letters.
"The main goal of the study was to identify the neural correlates of a mystical experience," said Dr. Beauregard. The study demonstrated that a dozen different regions of the brain are activated during a mystical experience. In other words, mystical experiences are mediated by several brain regions and systems normally implicated in functions such as self-consciousness, emotion and body representation.
Bottom line: We have a "God Net" not a "God Spot." So what will be next? Perhaps, a spotted God net?
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