Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Spiritual Brain: Selective Cortical Lesions Modulate Human Self-Transcendence

An interesting study in Neuron says that the "predisposition of human beings toward spiritual feelings, thinking, and behaviors is measured by a supposedly stable personality trait called self-transcendence." From the summary:
Combining pre- and post-neurosurgery personality assessment with advanced brain-lesion mapping techniques, we found that selective damage to left and right inferior posterior parietal regions induced a specific increase of self-transcendence. [...] These results hint at the active, crucial role of left and right parietal systems in determining self-transcendence and cast new light on the neurobiological bases of altered spiritual and religious attitudes and behaviors in neurological and mental disorders.
Within the report they indicated an interesting result that relates to glioma patients:
Considering separately the four groups of patients with different types of brain tumors (Table 2), we found an increased probability of religiosity self-judgments among posterior HgG and recurrent glioma patients, who presented also higher ST scores before surgery as compared to anterior patients. Furthermore, the posterior recurrent glioma patients, who underwent surgery several months before, also reported mystic experiences more frequently than the anterior patients. These consisted mostly in experiencing the presence of God or visions during prayer, while one patient reported a single-event feeling of a presence.

The Spiritual Brain: Selective Cortical Lesions Modulate Human Self-Transcendence
Neuron, Volume 65, Issue 3, 11 February 2010, Pages 309-319
Cosimo Urgesi, Salvatore M. Aglioti, Miran Skrap, Franco Fabbro

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