Study localizes the brain circuit responsible for spirituality and religiosity

For the first time, a group of experts at Brigham and Women’s Hospital unveiled the brain circuit responsible for spirituality and religiosity.

As featured in the journal Biological Psychiatry, researchers center on the periaqueductal gray (PAG) brainstem region to find the brain circuit associated with spirituality.

As part of their study, researchers initiated lesion network mapping to identify the brain circuits of focus. The data of 88 neurosurgical patients had been examined, with some demonstrating a lack of spiritual belief and others vice versa.

According to the study: “We found that brain lesions associated with self-reported spirituality map to a brain circuit centered on the periaqueductal grey.”

“Intersection of lesion locations with this same circuit aligned with self-reported religiosity in an independent dataset, as well as prior reports of lesions associated with hyper-religiosity. Lesion locations causing delusions and alien limb syndrome also intersected this circuit,” the study also found.

“These findings suggest that spirituality and religiosity map to a common brain circuit centered on the periaqueductal grey, a brainstem region previously implicated in fear conditioning, pain modulation, and altruistic behavior.”

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