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Researchers seek to demystify brain activity during mystical encounters

The goings-on in the brain have always left researchers intrigued, egging them on to unlock the secrets embedded in the brain’s nook and crannies//. In a bid to comprehend the link between profound experiences and their association with regions in the brain, a research team studied the activity of the brain of Christian Nuns, while they recalled divine experiences.

A University of Montreal team studied the MRI of 15 Canadian nuns to get an insight into brain activity during a mystical experience, revealed that there is not just a single region in the brain that can establish the link with an esoteric experience. The team discovered that, many areas in the brain, as opposed to one single region, drove the Christian mystical experience.

The researchers analyzed MRI images of the brain of 15 nuns, amid a reliving of mystical experience, found an increase in activity in almost 12 regions in the brain that did not exclude the regions holding the seat of self-consciousness and emotion.

Dr Mario Beauregard of the Department of Psychology and lead researcher said "I was obliged to do it this way, seeing as the nuns are unable to call upon God at will The main goal of the study was to identify the neural correlates of a mystical experience. Rather than there being one spot that relates to mystical experiences, we've found a number of brain regions are involved. This does not diminish the meaning and value of such an experience and neither does it confirm or disconfirm the existence of God."

Fr Stephen Wang, a Catholic priest teaching at Allen Hall Seminary in London responding to the findings said, "These brain studies can give us fascinating insights into how the human body and mind and spirit inter-connect, but they should not make us think that prayer and religious experience are just an activity in the brain. True Christian mysticism is an encounter with the living God. We meet him in the depths of our souls. It is an expe rience that goes far beyond the normal boundaries of human psychology and consciousness."


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