The "God spot," a specific area of the brain said to be linked to spirituality, is not really concentrated on one spot, as previously believed, but is actually spread across a number of areas, a study published by the International Journal of the Psychology of Religion has revealed.
"We have found a neuro-psychological basis for spirituality, but it's not isolated to one specific area of the brain," explained Brick Johnstone, professor of health psychology at the University of Missouri School of Health Professions, in a press release from the university.
"Spirituality is a much more dynamic concept that uses many parts of the brain. Certain parts of the brain play more significant roles, but they all work together to facilitate individuals' spiritual experiences." said Johnstone, who leads the longtime study.
Scientists had previously thought there was one distinct area of the brain responsible for spirituality, the report by the University of Missouri noted, but the new research has concluded that spiritual experiences are highly complex and occur in multiple areas of the brain. Increased activity in the frontal lobe of the brain in particular was associated with a number of aspects of spiritual functions.
The study found that respondents to a survey who attended church or participated in religious practices measured an increased activity in the frontal lobe of their brains, which is what allows humans to choose between good and bad decisions and understand future consequences of their actions.
The 20 people with traumatic brain injuries who participated in the research were asked a series of questions about their spiritual experiences, and the study found that damage to the right parietal lobe actually increased feeling of closeness to a higher power and decreased the focus on the self. As Johnstone explained, however, this does not mean that religious belief is associated with brain damage.
"Since our research shows that people with this impairment are more spiritual, this suggests spiritual experiences are associated with a decreased focus on the self. This is consistent with many religious texts that suggest people should concentrate on the well-being of others rather than on themselves," the lead researcher expressed.
"This finding indicates that spiritual experiences are likely associated with different parts of the brain," Johnstone concluded. He also noted that the right side of the brain is associated with self-orientation, whereas the left side is linked with how individuals relate to others.