When Science And Religion Collide

During meditation, activity in the brain -- specifically the parietal lobe is decreased. This area of the brain is responsible for giving us a sense of our orientation in space and time. i i

hide captionDuring meditation, activity in the brain — specifically the parietal lobe is decreased. This area of the brain is responsible for giving us a sense of our orientation in space and time.

Dr. Andrew Newberg/andrewnewberg.com
During meditation, activity in the brain -- specifically the parietal lobe is decreased. This area of the brain is responsible for giving us a sense of our orientation in space and time.

During meditation, activity in the brain — specifically the parietal lobe is decreased. This area of the brain is responsible for giving us a sense of our orientation in space and time.

Dr. Andrew Newberg/andrewnewberg.com

Have you ever thought about what changes your body — or anyone's — goes through as you pray or meditate or focus hard on a problem? Just think of the amount of concentration one does to connect with a higher being. People in different religions express themselves in different ways, whether it is through meditation or speaking in tongues. And in recent years, doctors have been able to study the effects of religion on the brain.

It's an emerging field of study called neurotheology.

Sound complicated? Well, I'm not going to even start to explain it. But Dr. Andrew Newberg, author of "Principles of Neurotheology," is on our program today to explain some profound questions.

In the meantime, check out this brain scan Dr. Newberg sent us. According to his research, the brains of people who regularly pray or meditate for many hours look different in scans. Perhaps we may be able to understand out-of-body experiences and spiritual visions one day.

If you're intrigued by Dr. Newberg's work and the world of neurotheology, click here to check out more of the brain scans and here to listen to NPR Religion Correspondent Barbara Bradley Haggery's piece from May 2009.

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