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Neurotheology: Investigating the relationship between the brain and spirituality

Theologians and scientists are not always on the same side of issues. But the emerging field of "neurotheology" might someday bridge the gap between science and religion.

A recent segment on NPR's Talk of the Nation discussed the imaging research of Andrew Newberg, MD, who studies the relationship between the brain and religious experience, and how practices such as prayer and meditation may shape the brain:

Newberg describes one study in which he worked with older individuals who were experiencing memory problems. Newberg took scans of their brains, then taught them a mantra-based type of meditation and asked them to practice that meditation 12 minutes a day for eight weeks. At the end of the eight weeks, they came back for another scan, and Newberg found some dramatic differences.

According to Newberg, many of the participants related that they were thinking more clearly and were better able to remember things after eight weeks of meditation. Remarkably, the new scans and memory tests confirmed their claims.

Researchers at Stanford's Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education are also engaged in contemplative neuroscience projects. Their research was featured at an October conference attended by the Dalai Lama.

Previously: Study shows cell health linked to positive mood changes in meditation, Imaging study shows how meditating helps brain cope with pain, and Is your attention span dwindling? Meditation may help
Photo by Jesslee Cuizon

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