Neurotheology is an emerging field of study within the spectrum of neuroscience, which can also be termed as "biology of religion." It addresses the relationship between the brain (or, the entire physical organism) as an anatomical (structural) and physiological (functional) entity; and religion, including spiritual experience, and behaviour modulated by belief. Neurotheology demands attention within the province of neuroscience precisely because it insists upon the precise demarcation of a neural substrate for affective phenomena usually termed 'spiritual'.
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The "God" Part Of The Brain
Website for Matthew Alper's book which suggests that "humans are innately hard-wired to perceive a spiritual reality".
BBC - Science & Nature - Horizon - God on the Brain
Is a part of our brains hardwired to generate religious feelings? Program summary for a BBC neurotheology special.
Book Review of Andrew Newburg's 'Principles of Neurotheology'
"Principles of Neurotheology" is Andrew Newburg's seminal work that attempts to integrated the varied disciplines that comprise neurotheology. In NeuroQuantology [Dec 2010, vol 8, Issue 4, pages 600-602], the reviewers Persinger and Lavallee recommend this book as essential reading for scholars wishing to pursue this subject with scientific rigour. [PDF]
Chrysalis Institute - Neurotheology
The Chrysalis Institute uses contemporary scientific research to investigate the mind, body, brain, and soul connections between spiritual development and human well being.
Ecstasy from a Physiological Point of View
Discussion of relationship between drugs, celibacy, fasting and other physical practices and ecstasy. Presented by Kaj Bjorkqvist at Symposium on Religions Ecstasy held at Åbo, Finland, on the 26th-28th of August 1981.
Experimenting with Spirituality: Analyzing The God Gene in a Nonmajors Laboratory Course
This is a report on a laboratory project for aiding student learning, in the context of Dean Hamers' book 'The God Gene', that proposes variations in the VMAT2 gene as playing a role in one's openness to spiritual experiences.
The God Gene
Carl Zimmer critically reviews Dean Hamer's book "The God Gene: How Faith Is Hard-wired Into Our Genes".
Guardian: Tests of faith
Article discussing evolutionary, anthropological (Boyer), and neuroscientific (Ramachandran, Newberg) aspects of religion.
How the Brain Creates God
Broad-ranging overview by Iona Miller, touching on archetypes, NDEs, drugs, trances, TMS, and shamanism.
Journal of Consciousness Exploration and Research - Magnetic Stimulation of the Temporal Cortex: A Partial “God Helmet” Replication Study
Report by Brazilian researchers who conducted a Partial Replication study of Persinger's God Helmet and obtained results showing that suggestibility does not account for its reported effects. [PDF]
Key Scientific Papers
Dr Rick Hanson presents a collection of public domain, fundamental science papers related to neuroscience, contemplative practice, and neurotheology.
Neuro-theology, literature and links - Uppsala University, Sweden
An extensive and useful selection of resources on neurotheology.
Neurological Correlates of Transformational Experiences
Article building on work of Persinger and d'Aquili, looking at near-death experiences with neuroimaging.
Neurology of Spiritual Experiences
Articles on spiritual experience and magnetic signal brain stimulation by one of Michael Persinger's students.
Neurotheology - With God In Mind
Neurotheology research and its implications are discussed from a psychological perspective.
Neurotheology on Wikipedia
A brief but balanced overview of the field.
Neurotheology: Confirming the Existence of a Naturally Mystical Mind
An article by Florentine Rutaganira, that has made it to the 'Prized Writing' section at ucdavis, covering the recent research into the relationship between brain processes and religious or mystical experiences.
Numenware, a blog about neurotheology
This blog on neurotheology has a good collection of relevant musings, most of them referencing contemporary articles, that have grown over the years.
The Physical and Psychological Effects of Meditation
Online Introduction of a book by the same name, reviewing scientific studies on meditation research, discussing behavioral effects, and giving subjective reports. [PDF]
Physiology of meditation
Article covering meditation and its relationship to the metabolism, autonomic nervous system, endocrine system, and central nervous system.
Researching Meditation
Provides results from research into the effects of meditation using a variety of methods including EEG analysis. Areas of research include ADHD, epilepsy, asthma and menopausal hot flushes.
Sacred Pathways: The Brain’s Role In Religious and Mystic Experiences
This Book, written by Todd Murphy, a member of a University Neurosciences group, was published in November 2013, and elaborates upon the brain's role in religious and mystic experiences. It has Forewords by His Holiness The Dalai Lama of Tibet, and by Dr M.A. Persinger.
Sufism and Neurotheology
An outlook from the Islamic perspective on neurotheology as the neuroscientific study of spiritual experience; especially within the context of Sufism.
What is Neurotheology?
Neurotheology is the scientific field that is focused on studying the neurological activity of the brain during spiritual experiences.
What is Neurotheology? by Charles Zeiders
In interview format, the author offers a brief perspective on neurotheology relevant to mental health providers.
Wired for the Ultimate Reality: The Neuropsychology of Religious Experience
Article by Drs. Andrew Newberg and Eugene D'Aquili on the biological mechanisms underlying religious and spiritual experience, from the PBS "The Question of God" series.
Zen and the Brain
Summary of "Zen and the Brain", James H. Austin's definitive work tracing the neuroscientific aspects of Zen.
Neurotheology helps settle relationship between science, spirituality
A concise overview of the subject 'Neurotheology' from a layman's perspective; embellished with several interesting quotations. (March 19, 2016)
Empirical Correlations for Ancient IndianTheories on Consciousness and Cognition
This article represents an attempt to extract the psychological theory of cognition and consciousness from a prominent ancient Indian thought system: Samkhya-Yoga; that has the potential to modify and complement existing Western mainstream accounts of cognition, especially in meditation research or research on aspects of consciousness. (March 15, 2016)
What Really Happens In Our Brains When We Have Spiritual Experiences?
A layman-friendly introduction to the empirical approach toward affective spiritual experiences; that consists of the neurotheological study of intersections among our brains, religion, philosophy, and spirituality. (October 19, 2013)
Neurotheology-Matters of the Mind or Matters that Mind?
An attempt to understand the function of the mind and the brain, in relation to spiritual experiences, referred to as the emerging science of neurotheology. (May 08, 2013)
The Future of Neurotheology
Andrew Newburg asks what this field of the neurological study of religious and spiritual experiences will accomplish in the future, in terms of the philosophical, theological, and scientific issues. (December 24, 2010)
PLOS ONE: The Neural Correlates of Religious and Nonreligious Belief
This peer-reviewed study, an open-access resource, compares religious thinking with ordinary cognition; and finds that while religious and nonreligious thinking differentially engage broad regions of the frontal, parietal, and medial temporal lobes, the difference between belief and disbelief appears to be content-independent. (October 01, 2009)
Is this your brain on God?
This webpage provides an introduction to neurotheology for laypersons by expanding on five topics. Among the topics covered are: The God Chemical, The God Spot, and The Biology of Belief. (July 21, 2009)
Alumnus transforms neurological activity of memories into colorful art exhibition - 'Neurotheology'
University of Chicago alumnus Audrius Pliophys merges neurology and art in his works with the group-title "Neurotheology", so termed because he sees this artistic representaton of the human brain's ability to think philosophically as "spiritual". (October 05, 2006)
"Neurotheology": A semantic trap set by pseudo-science for the unwary scientist
Article claiming there is no scientific rationale for the nouveau term "Neurotheology", and that researchers working on topics relating to religion should stick to the conventional behavioural and social neurosciences categories. (March 12, 2006)
Linking Out-of-Body Experience and Self Processing to Mental Own-Body Imagery at the Temporoparietal Junction
Paper by Olaf Blanke and team on the neurocognitive bases of out-of-body (OBE) experiences, from Journal of Neuroscience. (January 19, 2005)
A Mystical Union
Economist article giving overview of recent research in neurotheology. (March 04, 2004)
Meditation and the Brain
Report on a conference held by MIT's McGovern Institute for Brain Research, bringing together Buddhists and neuroscientists. (February 01, 2004)
The Serotonin System and Spiritual Experiences
Article in the American Journal of Psychiatry finds that "binding potential" (serotonin levels) correlated inversely with scores for self-transcendence, and concludes that the serotonin system may serve as a biological basis for spiritual experiences. (November 01, 2003)
Religiosity is associated with hippocampal but not amygdala volumes in patients with refractory epilepsy
Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery and Psychiatry article finding that epilepsy patients with high religiosity had smaller right hippocampi. (June 06, 2003)
What Buddhists Know About Science
Wired article on relationship between Tibetan meditation and the brain. (July 22, 2002)
Are We Hardwired for God?
The Guardian newspaper's review of Pascal Boyer's book "Religion Explained". (February 07, 2002)
Neurotheology & Shamanism
Dr. Michael Winkelman, Anthropology Professor at Arizona State and author of "Shamanism: The Neural Economy of Consciousness", discusses the neurological basis of shamanism, mankind's oldest spiritual practice. (June 05, 2001)
This Is Your Brain on God
Wired Magazine interview of Michael Persinger, leading figure in the reductionist school of neurotheology. (November 01, 1999)
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