spiritual centers of the brain

Spirituality was tracked to the the left inferior parietal lobe (left) and the right angular gyrus (right).

Removing part of the brain can induce inner peace, according to researchers from Italy. Their study provides the strongest evidence to date that spiritual thinking arises in, or is limited by, specific brain areas.

To investigate the neural basis of spirituality, Cosimo Urgesi, a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of Udine, and his colleagues turned to people with brain tumours to assess the feeling before and after surgery. Three to seven days after the removal of tumours from the posterior part of the brain, in the parietal cortex, patients reported feeling a greater sense of self-transcendence. This was not the case for patients with tumours removed from the frontal regions of the brain. […]

Probably the most worrisome aspect of the study is the way the authors measured self-transcendence. “It’s important to recognize that the whole study is based on changes in one self-report measure, which is a coarse measure that includes some strange items,” says cognitive neuroscientist Richard Davidson of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “In the future, it will be important to understand why lesions in the parietal cortex induce changes on this scale.”

“Self-transcendence is an abstract concept, and different people will attribute different meanings to the word,” says Vandenberghe. Patient self reporting is not always accurate, he says, adding that tapping into spirituality with more rigorous behavioural measures and pinpointing the specific thoughts and feelings that constitute it are the obvious next steps.

Nature: Brain surgery boosts spirituality

(via Cat Vincent)