Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Holy surgery and the spiritual brain.

Over the past several years I've done a number of posts on brain correlates of spirituality, in particular work on lesions or temporal lobe seizures that induce mystical or spiritual states (click the religion topic in the left column to find them). Urgesi et al. have now done a clinical study on selective cortical lesions that modulate human self transcendence. They 88 brain cancer patients to fill out a widely used personality questionnaire before and after surgery to remove their tumors. One section of the test measured "self transcendence." It asked respondents, for example, about their tendency to become so absorbed in an activity that they lose track of time and place and whether they feel a strong spiritual connection with other people or with nature. They found that selective damage to left and right inferior posterior parietal regions induced a specific increase of self-transcendence. Other studies have found that some of the same regions become active during prayer and meditation. These posterior parietal brain regions have been implicated in providing awareness of the body's position and location in space.

Figure - Lesion Correlates of Increased and Decreased Self Transcendence. The authors found two clusters of voxels located in the left inferior parietal lobe (L-IPL; A) and in the right angular gyrus (R-AG; B) whose damage was associated with a significant ST increase.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the interesting study Derek. I am just wondering however, if the answer will ever be conclusive as to say whether the mind exists independent of the brain.

    Best regards,

    Lynn Fishman RN