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Nun Study Counters Notion of 'God Spot' in Brain

Mystical experience relies on numerous neurological areas, research suggests

WEDNESDAY, Aug. 30, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- High-tech MRIs of the brains of a group of nuns suggest there is no single so-called "God spot" in the brain.

Instead, mystical experiences appear to involve a number of brain regions and systems that normally control a variety of functions, including self-consciousness, emotion and body representation, said a Canadian team at the Universite de Montreal.

Their findings were published in the current issue of Neuroscience Letters.

The researchers conducted real-time functional MRI (fMRI) brain scans on 15 cloistered Carmelite nuns, aged 23 to 64. During the brain scan, each nun was asked to relive a mystical experience, rather than to actually attempt to achieve one.

"I was obliged to do it this way, seeing as the nuns are unable to call upon God at will," Dr. Mario Beauregard, of the department of psychology, said in a prepared statement.

The results showed that a dozen different regions of the brain were activated when the nuns relived a mystical experience. The finding contradicts previous research that suggested that a specific brain region may be designed for communication with God.

More information

The American College of Radiology and Radiological Society of North America have more about fMRI scans of the brain.

SOURCE: Universite de Montreal, news release, Aug. 29, 2006
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