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The stones in the water
The stones in the water

Claim: “Spirituality” Circuit in the Brain Has Been Identified

Really? Is that even possible?

It’s a story like so many others: Researchers have “found” the brain circuits for spirituality:

A new study led by investigators at Brigham and Women’s Hospital takes a new approach to mapping spirituality and religiosity and finds that spiritual acceptance can be localized to a specific brain circuit.

This brain circuit is centered in the periaqueductal gray (PAG), a brainstem region that has been implicated in numerous functions, including fear conditioning, pain modulation, altruistic behaviors and unconditional love …

“Our results suggest that spirituality and religiosity are rooted in fundamental, neurobiological dynamics and deeply woven into our neuro-fabric,” said corresponding author Michael Ferguson, PhD, a principal investigator in the Brigham’s Center for Brain Circuit Therapeutics. “We were astonished to find that this brain circuit for spirituality is centered in one of the most evolutionarily preserved structures in the brain.

Brigham and Women’s Hospital, “Brain Circuit for Spirituality Identified” at Neuroscience News (July 1, 2021)

In recent decades, many people have tried to identify brain circuits for spirituality.

The trouble is, spirituality is like “my country” or “my family”. There never is and never can be a single definition that fits it all. For the same reasons, there is not likely to be a “brain circuit” that explains all spirituality. But one thing you can count on: There will always be people who need to believe so.

The paper is closed access .

You may also wish to read: Claim: “Evolution” explains near-death experiences The problem is, there is no evolutionary reason to believe the claim. Humans who have near-death experiences are not “playing possum”; they really are clinically dead but can be resuscitated by modern medicine. That’s the amazing thing we are only exploring now.


Does religious belief help people think in a more complex way? One psychologist became interested in the question because many studies have associated religious belief with better health and greater longevity.

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Claim: “Spirituality” Circuit in the Brain Has Been Identified