SpiritualityHow Spirituality Effects the Brain Kaela WellsECE Current Issues in the Brain March 2, 2012
What is Spirituality?• Spirituality is not religion and is not even necessarily affiliated with religion. While the definition of spirituality is different for everyone, there are commons themes associated with spirituality such as: – The idea of a process or journey of self-discovery and the learning of not only who you are, but who you want to be. – The challenge of reaching beyond your current limits by keeping an open mind, questioning current beliefs, or trying to better understand others’ beliefs. – A connectedness to yourself and others. – A higher power, whether rooted in religion, nature, or some kind of unknown essence.
Why should we develop our spirituality?• Spirituality can offer many benefits to your life both emotionally and physically such as: – Gives you a sense of purpose – Helps one find what they may be most passionate about both professionally and personally. – Improves social and personal life.• Studies also show that positive beliefs can comfort you and improve health. Those who have taken time to develop a spiritual life are also likely to better understand their needs.
Brain Surgery Boosts Spirituality• Researchers in Italy have found that removing part of the brain can induce inner peace along with the study that spiritual thinking arises in, or is limited by, specific brain areas.• Cosimo Urgesi, a neuroscientist, turned to individuals with brain tumors to asses the feeling before and after surgery. Three to seven days after the removal of tumors from the posterior part of the brain, in the parietal cortex, patients reported feeling a greater sense of self-transcendence. However, this was not the case for patients with tumors removed from the frontal regions of the brain.
Spirituality & Damaged Brain• Salvatore Aglioti, a cognitive neuroscientist, had pinpointed two parts of the brain that, when damaged, led to increases in spirituality.• The left inferior parietal lobe and the right angular gyrus were the parts of the brain that when damaged, caused the differences. These areas are at the back of the brain and are involves in how we perceive our bodies in spatial relation to the external world.
What makes us feel spiritual?• A study suggests that a small area in our brain is the cause. The area in question being the right parietal lobe.• The parietal lobe is responsible for defining “Me”, according to researcher, Brick Johnstone.• The parietal lobe generates self-criticism and guides us through physical and social terrains by constantly updating our self-knowledge.• Individuals with less active “me-definers” are more likely to lead spiritual lives.
Current Research• Most previous research on neuro-spirituality has been based on brain scans of actively practicing adherents (i.e. meditating monks, praying nuns) and has resulted in inconclusive findings.• Previous neuro-imaging studies had linked activity within a large network in the brain that connects the frontal, parietal, and temporal cortexes with spiritual experiences.• Researchers explain that more information could lead to strategies for treating some forms of mental illness through spiritual healings.
Spirituality and the Aging Brain• Existing evidence suggests that meditation, prayer, and other related religious and spiritual practices have many significant effects on the aging brain.• Many of the effects appear to be positive, helping improve memory and cognition, mood, and overall mental health.
Positive Effects of Meditation and Spirituality• Research shows that meditation practice and increased mindfulness are related to: – Improved attentions functions – Cognitive flexibility• It may have the most important implication for aging, as there is a great deal of interest in helping maintain brain function as people age.• Tests prove that those who meditate outperformed those who do not meditate on all measures of cognitive flexibility and speed of processing visual information.
Negative Effects of Meditation and Spirituality• Studies have shows there may be a negative impact on health because of: – Not being able to follow instructions properly. – Trying to meditate or take part in prayer in a distracting environment which would result in not enjoying the process. – Frustration can turn into embarrassment and anxiety. – Problems incorporating them into current religious or spiritual belief system which will then lead to anxiety and depression if it were to cause a “spiritual crisis”. – A mix of religious, spiritual and organic sources can cause metal illness and treatment can become complicated.
Video on Meditation and the Brain• http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wdHRR _XuJQo
BibliographyBook: Beauregard, Mario, and Denyse OLeary. The Spiritual Brain. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2007. Print. Used this book to get a better understanding of the benefits for the mind body and soul that spirituality helps create.Articles: Newberg, A. B. (2011). Spirituality and the Aging Brain. Generations, 35(2), 83-91. -This article gave information on the positives and negatives of meditation, prayer, etc. Reich, K. (2010). The Brain and Religion: How Do They Relate to Each Other?. Intellectual Discourse, 18(1), 141-154. -This article included how religion, meditation, and prayer related to the brain.
Additional Sources• http://www.livescience.com/5237-spirituality-spot-brain.html• http://swc.osu.edu/about-us/spirituality/• http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2010/02/12/scientists-spirituality- center-brain/• http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=brain-surgery- boosts-spiritual• Youtube.com• Cover photo: http://lakesideconference.org/• Any other photos included were all taken by my uncle. I chose them because I was inspired by my cousin which is in each of them. His name was Phillipe.