Joined: Jan. 2006
Denyse, you are such a fibber! And so is Doctor Beauregard. Here's his description of his "research" from the outline of his publication:
But that's not really what you did, Dr. Beauregard. Here's the description of your "research" from Science Direct:
|The main goal of this functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study was to identify the neural correlates of a mystical experience. The brain activity of Carmelite nuns was measured while they were subjectively in a state of union with God.|
|In the Mystical condition, subjects were asked to remember and relive (eyes closed) the most intense mystical experience ever felt in their lives as a member of the Carmelite Order. ... In the Control condition, subjects were instructed to remember and relive (eyes closed) the most intense state of union with another human ever felt in their lives while being affiliated with the Carmelite Order.|
In other words, you CLAIM that your nuns were in a state of union with God, but you actually measured them while they were REMEMBERING such states! There's a world of difference between actually experiencing something and remembering it.
Dr. Andrew Newburg studied the brains of Buddhist Monks during meditation and Franciscan nuns during prayer. Here's how he did it:
|When the volunteers reached the apex of their meditative state, they tugged on a string, which was Newberg and D'Aquili's cue to inject a radioactive tracer into their blood through an IV line. This tracer traveled to their brains and became bound to the neurons that were most active, creating a snapshot of brain activity at that particular moment that could later be imaged through a technique called SPECT (short for single photon emission computed tomography). When the imaging was performed, it showed, unsurprisingly, that brain regions responsible for concentration were highly active. However, there was one other consistent result that stood out. In all eight subjects, a particular region of the brain, the superior parietal lobe, showed a sharp reduction in activity. |
The role of this brain region was already known. As discussed in Part 1 of this essay, the superior parietal lobe is the brain's "where" system. Its job is to orient a person in three-dimensional space and help them move through the world; as part of this task, it must draw a clear distinction between "self" and "not-self". For this reason, Newberg and D'Aquili call it the "orientation association area", or OAA for short. In all eight volunteers, the OAA had been inhibited by their deep meditative state, deprived of the sensory information it needs to build a coherent picture of the world.
What would be the result of this? Without the OAA, the brain is unable to perceive the physical limits of the self - unable to tell where the body ends and the world begins. (One of the meditators who took part in the study described the experience as feeling "like a loss of boundary" (Holmes 2001, p. 26)). And "[i]n that case, the brain would have no choice but to perceive that the self is endless and intimately interwoven with everyone and everything the mind senses. And this perception would feel utterly and unquestionably real" (Newberg and D'Aquili 2001, p. 6).
Intrigued by the possibility of a biological basis for religious experience, Newberg and D'Aquili broadened their study to include Franciscan nuns who claimed they felt a sense of closeness with God while deep in prayer. The experiment was repeated, and the results were the same: both the Franciscans and the Buddhists experienced similar drops in activity in the OAA, producing a sense of infinite self which both groups then interpreted through the milieu of their own religious beliefs.
In words simple enough for even Denyse O'Leary to understand, in a REAL mystical experience, the part of the brain that orients you in space shuts down from lack of inputs. This leads to the feeling that you are expanding outward and enveloping or merging with the universe or meeting God or whatever.
In Dr. Beauregard's study, he measured the brains of people who were REMEMBERING such experiences and, no surprise, he found that many areas of the brain were active - but he didn't find that the Orientation Association Area had shut down, which is what happens when you're EXPERIENCING deep meditation and prayer.
In fact, he found that,"This state was associated with significant loci of activation in the right medial orbitofrontal cortex, right middle temporal cortex, right inferior and superior parietal lobules..."
Why am I not surprised that a researcher who enlists Denyse O'Leary as a co-author doesn't know what the h3ll he's doing?