Begin forwarded message:
From: "Robert Karl Stonjek" <ston...@ozemail.com.au>
Date: December 18, 2008 1:32:15 AM EST
Subject: [evol-psych] News: Selflessness, core of all major world
religions, has neuropsychological connection
Selflessness, core of all major world religions, has
(PhysOrg.com) -- All spiritual experiences are based in the brain.
That statement is truer than ever before, according to a University
of Missouri neuropsychologist. An MU study has data to support a
neuropsychological model that proposes spiritual experiences
associated with selflessness are related to decreased activity in
the right parietal lobe of the brain. The study is one of the first
to use individuals with traumatic brain injury to determine this
connection. Researchers say the implication of this connection
means people in many disciplines, including peace studies, health
care or religion can learn different ways to attain selflessness,
to experience transcendence, and to help themselves and others.
This study, along with other recent neuroradiological studies of
Buddhist meditators and Francescan nuns, suggests that all
individuals, regardless of cultural background or religion,
experience the same neuropsychological functions during spiritual
experiences, such as transcendence. Transcendence, feelings of
universal unity and decreased sense of self, is a core tenet of all
major religions. Meditation and prayer are the primary vehicles by
which such spiritual transcendence is achieved.
"The brain functions in a certain way during spiritual
experiences," said Brick Johnstone, professor of health psychology
in the MU School of Health Professions. "We studied people with
brain injury and found that people with injuries to the right
parietal lobe of the brain reported higher levels of spiritual
experiences, such as transcendence."
This link is important, Johnstone said, because it means
selflessness can be learned by decreasing activity in that part of
the brain. He suggests this can be done through conscious effort,
such as meditation or prayer. People with these selfless spiritual
experiences also are more psychologically healthy, especially if
they have positive beliefs that there is a God or higher power who
loves them, Johnstone said.
"This research also addresses questions regarding the impact of
neurologic versus cultural factors on spiritual experience,"
Johnstone said. "The ability to connect with things beyond the
self, such as transcendent experiences, seems to occur for people
who minimize right parietal functioning. This can be attained
through cultural practices, such as intense meditation or prayer or
because of a brain injury that impairs the functioning of the right
parietal lobe. Either way, our study suggests that 'selflessness'
is a neuropsychological foundation of spiritual experiences."
The research was funded by the MU Center on Religion and the
Professions. The study – "Support for a neuropsychological model of
spirituality in persons with traumatic brain injury" – was
published in the peer-reviewed journal Zygon.
"Our research focused on the personal experience of spiritual
transcendence and does not in any way minimize the importance of
religion or personal beliefs, nor does it suggest that spiritual
experience are related only to neuropsychological activity in the
brain," Johnstone said. "It is important to note that individuals
experience their God or higher power in many different ways, but
that all people from all religions and beliefs appear to experience
these connections in a similar way."
Provided by University of Missouri-Columbia
Robert Karl Stonjek