Via Media

Via Media

The Neurology of Spirituality

Experiments exploring the question

In the first of what he hopes will be a series of experiments, Dr Beauregard and his doctoral student Vincent Paquette are recording electrical activity in the brains of seven Carmelite nuns through electrodes attached to their scalps. Their aim is to identify the brain processes underlying the Unio Mystica—the Christian notion of mystical union with God. The nuns (the researchers hope to recruit 15 in all) will also have their brains scanned using positron-emission tomography and functional magnetic-resonance imaging, the most powerful brain-imaging tools available.

The study has met with scepticism from both subjects and scientists. Dr Beauregard had first to convince the nuns that he was not trying to prove or disprove the existence of God. Scientific critics, meanwhile, have accused him of being too reductionist—of pretending to pinpoint the soul in the brain in the same way that the Victorians played phrenology as a parlour game by feeling the contours of each others’ skulls to find a bulge of secretiveness or a missing patch of generosity.

Comments read comments(8)
post a comment
mark butterworth

posted March 5, 2004 at 1:34 pm

This has been done before. Newsweek ran an article about two years ago on the effect of prayer and different states on the brain.

report abuse

Father Shane Tharp

posted March 5, 2004 at 1:39 pm

One word, creeeepy

report abuse


posted March 5, 2004 at 4:36 pm

Call me a skeptic.

report abuse

Patrick Sweeney

posted March 5, 2004 at 4:51 pm

For a control group, he should could put some electrodes on Martha Stewart, Candace Bushnell, Pam Anderson, and Paris Hilton.
Blinded by science, indeed.

report abuse

Donald R. McClarey

posted March 5, 2004 at 9:53 pm

Crackpot is as crackpot does.

report abuse


posted March 6, 2004 at 10:51 am

I hope I’m not paying for this.

report abuse

Jeanne Schmelzer

posted March 6, 2004 at 7:42 pm

A study like this was done as reported in the Reader’s Digest. Their subjects were 1 nun and 1 Buddhist in contemplative or meditative mode. It was interesting as you could see how the brain lighted up in the one area. They had a before and after shot and both the nun and the Buddhist’s brains looked the same. It really has nothing to do with our relationship with God but how our brain works. That’s the crux of the matter.
In other studies, they’ve put electronic equipment on a person who was told they had cancer. One person praised the Lord that God was looking after her and one person cursed the fact that he had cancer. You can guess which one showed positive on the electrodes. The patients had no clue this was happening as it was being recorded in the next room. I’m fascinated with this stuff as long as I realize that it is no measure of how we stack up as disciples of Christ. Just a measure of how one’s brain works.

report abuse

Josh King

posted September 1, 2004 at 3:18 pm

You assume that you can reduce and define the soul in material and scientific terms. You can’t define the soul in such terms. It
is beyond science and material and it cannot be understood. To think that you are so mighty that you can define spiritualism
like that is arrogant. No spiritualist should attempt to learn of a material or scientific definition of our bond with God and
nature, lest we be as arrogant as the scientists.

report abuse

Post a Comment

By submitting these comments, I agree to the terms of service, rules of conduct and privacy policy (the "agreements"). I understand and agree that any content I post is licensed to and may be used by in accordance with the agreements.

Previous Posts

There is nothing I shall want
A couple of weeks ago, a memorial Mass for Michael was held here in Birmingham at the Cathedral. The bishop presided and offered a very nice, even charming homily in which he first focused on the Scripture readings of the day, and then turned to ...

posted 9:24:16am Mar. 05, 2009 | read full post »

Revolutionary Road - Is it just me?
Why am I the only person I know..or even "know" in the Internet sense of "knowing"  - who didn't hate it? I didn't love it, either. There was a lot wrong with it. Weak characterization. Miscasting. Anvil-wielding mentally ill prophets.But ...

posted 9:45:04pm Mar. 04, 2009 | read full post »

Books for Lent
No, I'm not going to ask you about your Lenten reading lists...although I might.Not today, though. This post is about giving books to others. For Lent, and a long time after that. You know how it goes during Lent: Prayer, Fasting and ...

posted 9:22:07pm Mar. 04, 2009 | read full post »

Why Via Media
How about....because I'm lame and hate thinking up titles to things? No? about...St. Benedict? Yes, yes, I know the association with Anglicanism. That wasn't invovled in my purpose in naming the joint, but if draws some Googling ...

posted 8:54:17pm Mar. 04, 2009 | read full post »

Brave Heart?
I don't know about you, but one of effects of childbirth on me was a compulsion to spill the details. All of them.The whole thing was fascinating to me, so of course I assumed everyone else should be fascinated as well in the recounting of every ...

posted 10:19:45pm Mar. 03, 2009 | read full post »


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.