A neuroscientist from the University of Pennsylvania, not committed to any one religion, has committed much of his research to the study of spiritual phenomena. His main interest has been what goes on in the brain during a person’s time of prayer or meditation. His intention is to try to find out how we can replicate spiritual experiences for those who don’t have as much time to dedicate to it. Dr. Andrew Newberg has found some interesting results:
– People who pray or meditate more than one hour often experience heightened levels in their frontal lobes. The frontal lobes of the brain are dedicated to concentration and awareness.
-Another result that Newberg found fascinating was that the parietal lobes went dark. This part of the brain is dedicated to one’s identity, or understanding of self. In the deeper, more mystical parts of prayer, this part of the brain seemed to be less existent and is a response to the experience of being one with God and the world.
Dr. Richard Davidson, at the University of Wisconsin, has studied the brains of monks and priests over the years. His main interest in neuroscience has been to reveal how one’s practices, thoughts, and emotions shapes one brains. The difference he sees between the brains of people who pray regularly and the brains of those who don’t are those that pray their brains are wired like a high model Porsche. Their meditation and prayer has helped them reach a heightened sense of compassion and awareness like he has rarely seen.
Davidson has shown that people who are disciplined in these spiritual practices can see noticeable changes in their brain within two weeks. He says that months of prayer can lead to what appears to be a