Neuroimaging, the sense of self and the sense of God
Andrew Wood is a Biophysicist who currently chairs the department of Biomedical and Health Sciences at Swinburne University in Melbourne. He has taught many aspects of Biomedical Instrumentation over several years. He worships at St Stephen’s Anglican Church in Greythorn, North Balwyn.
Recent advances in imaging methods have allowed controlled studies of brain processes associated with religious beliefs and practices. Now that imaging and other techniques can follow the way that nerve cells interconnect, there is a fresh interest in what constitutes consciousness. There is a related question of whether, if religious experience is uniquely human, some neural firing pattern or connectivity differences between humans and non-humans might be expected. There is now quite a large number of experimental investigations both of religious experience (or practice) and religious belief. This article reviews this recent work and highlights some of the limitations to these methods. In particular, the evidence for a particular region within the brain responsible for religious experience (a so-called ‘God spot’) is found to be virtually non-existent and many of the brain networks involved in manifestations of religious practice or belief are shared by other aspects of social interaction and belief formation.
Biomedical imaging, neurotheology, identity, mind-brain problem, consciousness.