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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 August 2006, 09:38 GMT 10:38 UK
Doubt cast over brain 'God spot'
Religious imagery
Researchers studied the brain activity of 15 nuns
There is no single "God spot" in the brain, Canadian scientists say.

A University of Montreal team found Christian mystical experiences are mediated by several brain regions.

Researchers asked 15 nuns to recount mystical experiences while studying them on MRI scanners, the journal, Neuroscience Letters reported.

There has been much debate about how the brain reacts during connections with God among religious followers.

This does not diminish the meaning and value of such an experience and neither does it confirm or disconfirm the existence of God
Dr Mario Beauregard, lead researcher

Some people went as far as suggesting there was a specific brain region designed for communication with God.

But the researchers claim this study discredits those theories.

Nuns are said to experience Unio Mystica - the Christian notion of a mystical union with God - during their 20s.

Researchers asked the nuns aged 23 to 64-years-old to recount such mystical experiences and measured their brain activity through MRI scans.

They found increased activity in at least 12 regions of the brain, including areas normally involved with self-consciousness and emotion.

Profound experience

Lead researcher Dr Mario Beauregard said: "The main goal of the study was to identify the neural correlates of a mystical experience.

"Rather than there being one spot that relates to mystical experiences, we've found a number of brain regions are involved.

"This does not diminish the meaning and value of such an experience and neither does it confirm or disconfirm the existence of God."

Father Stephen Wang, a Catholic priest teaching at Allen Hall Seminary in London, said: "These brain studies can give us fascinating insights into how the human body and mind and spirit inter-connect, but they should not make us think that prayer and religious experience are just an activity in the brain.

"True Christian mysticism is an encounter with the living God. We meet him in the depths of our souls.

"It is an experience that goes far beyond the normal boundaries of human psychology and consciousness."

The spiritual journey
14 Apr 06 |  Magazine

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