[ExI] better self-transcendence through selective brain damage

Damien Broderick thespike at satx.rr.com
Fri Feb 12 06:07:47 UTC 2010

Links to Spirituality Found in the Brain

By LiveScience.com Staff

Scientists have identified areas of the brain that, when damaged, lead 
to greater spirituality. The findings hint at the roots of spiritual and 
religious attitudes, the researchers say.

The study, published in the Feb. 11 issue of the journal Neuron, 
involves a personality trait called self-transcendence, which is a 
somewhat vague measure of spiritual feeling, thinking, and behaviors. 
Self-transcendence "reflects a decreased sense of self and an ability to 
identify one's self as an integral part of the universe as a whole," the 
researchers explain.

Before and after surgery, the scientists surveyed patients who had brain 
tumors removed. The surveys generate self-transcendence scores.

Selective damage to the left and right posterior parietal regions of the 
brain induced a specific increase in self-transcendence, or ST, the 
surveys showed.

"Our symptom-lesion mapping study is the first demonstration of a 
causative link between brain functioning and ST," said Dr. Cosimo Urgesi 
from the University of Udine in Italy. "Damage to posterior parietal 
areas induced unusually fast changes of a stable personality dimension 
related to transcendental self-referential awareness. Thus, 
dysfunctional parietal neural activity may underpin altered spiritual 
and religious attitudes and behaviors."

Previous neuroimaging studies had linked activity within a large network 
in the brain that connects the frontal, parietal, and temporal cortexes 
with spiritual experiences, "but information on the causative link 
between such a network and spirituality is lacking," explains lead study 
author, Urgesi said.

One study, reported in 2008, suggested that the brain's right parietal 
lobe defines "Me," and people with less active Me-Definers are more 
likely to lead spiritual lives.

The finding could lead to new strategies for treating some forms of 
mental illness.

"If a stable personality trait like ST can undergo fast changes as a 
consequence of brain lesions, it would indicate that at least some 
personality dimensions may be modified by influencing neural activity in 
specific areas," said Dr. Salvatore M. Aglioti from Sapienza University 
of Rome. "Perhaps novel approaches aimed at modulating neural activity 
might ultimately pave the way to new treatments of personality disorders."

More information about the extropy-chat mailing list