What God looks like in your brain: Scans show more activity when religious people meditate
Source: Daily Mail
These images show what happens to the brain when religious people think about God.
Scientist Dr. Andrew Newberg conducted brain scans on people during prayer, meditation and other religious, rituals, and various trance states.
He is a proponent of a controversial field of science known as neurotheology, which tries to study the relationship between the brain and religion.
As part of his research, Newberg studied the brain activity of experienced Tibetan Buddhists before and during meditation.
The effect of meditation in Tibetan Buddhist monk on the brain. The frontal lobes show considerably more activity than when the brain is at rest.
Newberg found an increase of activity in the meditators' frontal lobe, responsible for focusing attention and concentration, during meditation. He attributes the change to the effects of their religious experience.
However it is just as likely that the scans are another example of what happens when people meditate, rather than any religious link.
Neurotheology has come under fierce attack from other academics in the past who say it is not rigorous enough in its studies and that theology and science should not be linked in this way.
It is not the first time that brain activity and meditation have been studied.
Last month a study from the University of Oregon found that people who meditate can strengthen their brain. Meditation novices took part in brain-training meditation sessions for half an hour on weekdays for a month.
Another group received the same amount of tuition - 11 hours - in basic relaxation techniques.
Brain scans revealed the brain connections of those in the meditation group - but not the other group - started to strengthen after six hours' practice. Differences were clear after 11 hours.
These 'structural changes' were greatest in the fibres connecting the anterior cingulate, the part of the brain which helps regulate emotions and behaviour.
Newberg said: '[We] evaluate what's happening in people's brains when they are in a deep spiritual practice like meditation or prayer.
'This has really given us a remarkable window into what it means for people to be religious or spiritual or to do these kinds of practices.'
New berg told NPR: 'For those individuals who want to go down the path of arguing that all of our religious and spiritual experiences are nothing more than biological phenomena, some of this data does support that kind of a conclusion.
'But the data also does not specifically eliminate the notion that there is a religious or spiritual or divine presence in the world.'
Edited by: Lawyer Asad