Religious beliefs shape up in brain

New York, Jan 28 (IANS): Are there brain networks uniquely devoted to religious belief? Yes, says research.

Religious beliefs are shaped up in specific regions in your brain where causal connections between brain networks can be linked to differences in religious thought.

Researchers from National Institute on Aging in Baltimore, Maryland, and Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, Illinois, analysed data collected from functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies to evaluate the flow of brain activity when religious and non-religious individuals discussed their religious beliefs.

The authors determined causal pathways linking brain networks related to 'supernatural agents', fear regulation, imagery and affect - all of which may be involved in cognitive processing of religious beliefs.

“When the brain contemplates a religious belief, it is activating three distinct networks that are trying to answer three distinct questions,” said Dimitrios Kapogiannis from the National Institute on Aging.

The questions are: is there a supernatural agent involved (such as God) and, if so, what are his or her intentions; is the supernatural agent to be feared; and how does this belief relate to prior life experiences and to doctrines?

“Our study demonstrates that key brain networks devoted to various kinds of reasoning about others, emotional processing, knowledge representation and memory are called into action when thinking about religious beliefs,” informed Jordan Grafman, director at Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.

The use of these basic networks for religious practice indicates how basic networks evolved to mediate much more complex beliefs like those contained in religious practice, added the study published in the journal Brain Connectivity.



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