Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Ellen G. White, Prophetess, II

It is becoming quite clear that neuroscience has a lot to say about religion and spiritual experiences. For instance, as reported in the Psychology Today blog,
Using sophisticated imaging machines, the number of type 5HT-1A serotonin receptors in the brain was discovered to be inversely correlated with self-ratings of religiosity and spirituality. People who respond negatively (e.g., with excessive anxiety or depression) to the challenges of everyday life have fewer 5HT-1A receptors (just like the mice I discussed above) and are more likely to find comfort in religious faith and practice. Moreover, a series of studies have demonstrated that people with certain serotonin receptor profiles suffer more often with social anxiety disorder, which is characterized by an extreme fear that other people are thinking bad things about them.
This implies many things for religious believers, and may help explain the religiosity correlation between parents and children.
Taken together, these findings suggest that people who yearn for more spiritual leadership in their lives may have inherited fewer type 1A serotonin receptors than those who never express such yearnings.
But there's more to it than just the number of type 1A serotonin receptors a person may have inherited. This next part especially may relate to Ellen White, and her status as a prophetess.
A recent investigation discovered that the tendency to display extravagant religious behaviors correlated significantly with atrophy (i.e., shrinkage) of the right hippocampus in patients with untreatable epilepsy. In fact, the medical literature is replete with reports of epilepsy patients with religious delusions. Furthermore, and quite intriguing for its implications for the typical spiritual experience, are reports that decreased brain activity in the hippocampus has also been correlated with the feeling of a "sensed presence" or the feeling of an unseen person nearby. Recent studies using sophisticated brain imaging techniques also suggest that the prefrontal cortex is more likely involved in controlling our religious, moral, and paranormal beliefs.
What evidence is there that this is or isn't the case with Ellen White?

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