This Is Where Spirituality Seems To “Live” In The Brain

In the group of 88 neurosurgical patients, some reported less spiritual faith before and after surgery, some more, and some didn’t report a change. Going off of those reports, researchers were able to map lesions in the brain and identify a specific brain circuit associated with spirituality.

That brain circuit was centered in a brainstem region called the periaqueductal grey (PAG), which has positive and negative nodes. When lesions disrupted a positive node, spiritual beliefs seemed to decrease and vice versa. When lesions disrupted a negative node, it increased spiritual belief. The set of data from the other 100-plus patients supported these findings.

As the study authors note, this research suggests “spirituality and religiosity map to a common brain circuit centered on the periaqueductal grey, a brainstem region previously implicated in fear conditioning, pain modulation, and altruistic behavior.”



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