Sunday, September 17, 2006

Studying the feeling of being 'at one'

` According to the Nature article, Nuns go under the brain scanner by Helen Pearson...

` There are a network of brain regions, identified by neuroscientists, that activate when nuns feel that they are at one with God. And, if these regions are artificially stimulated, anyone could have such experiences without even believing in God or anything of the type!
` Some may say that's cheating, but I disagree - the very nonreligious Lou Ryan had a completely life-changing experience when he felt just how small he was in the cosmos. ...When he tried mushrooms. It completely changed his life.
` Mario Beauregard of the University of Montreal led the study because he wanted to know what goes on in the brain when someone is having such mystical experiences, (feeling at one, at peace, etc.) because he has had the same experiences.
` He and his colleague, Vincent Paquette, went out and found 15 Carmelite nuns who volunteered to be put in an fMRI. (Apparently, they said couldn't connect with God at will, and so they were not scanned while praying.) Once inside, they were asked to relive the most mystical moment in their lives. They were also asked to relive an experience when they felt at union with another person.
` They reported in Neuroscience Letters that there were a collection of brain areas found to be more active during the recollected mystical experience than the emotional one.
` One was the caudate nucleus, which is associated with such feelings as happiness and bliss. And there was also more activity in regions that are thought to integrate feelings from the rest of the body, which may explain why they feel at one with both God and their surroundings. There are also more electrical activity that is associated with deep sleep and meditation.
` There was also more actication in the temporal cortex, which Beuregard says might be expected of a complicated emotional and cognitive experience.
` However, unlike previous studies that show a 'God module' of the brain, these studies dealt with memories rather than the moment of the actual experience.
` Perhaps even being able to mimic such brain states in ailing nonbelievers could help them to benefit from the same feelings that religious people seem to. ...But would anyone do such a thing? In any case, such research could be important because it these feelings are important to all cultures.

` Okay, that's all folks. Go home. I'm tired. Don't complain that you think that this is a sub-par post. It's not. It's just... rushed. Yeah, that's it. Stop staring at the lawn, just go!!

4 comments:

This and That said...

I actually liked this post and found it interesting though I think the closeness to God feeling is much like any feeling of peace and euphoria so it has less to do with religion. It iswhatever gets you at peace and makes the areas of the brain send out more serotonin. My guess is that the nuns also dont' have their sympathetic NS heightened like so many of us do with everyday life and trauma so thet naturally get that feeling on the MRI faster.

Galtron said...

Yeah, it's not really a 'religious' feeling. I get that way just looking at the night sky sometimes.....

S E E Quine said...

` You are indeed correct, people. It only really becomes a religious experience when you associate it with such things. Those nuns, for example, practice getting it back every day.
` ...Of course, if believers thought that God would cause traumatic experiences, they would associate those with God. Also, I'm sure they wouldn't be so eager to experience them again.

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