Thursday, August 31, 2006

Researchers with too much time on their hands

ScienceDaily: Brain Scan Of Nuns Finds No Single 'God Spot' In The Brain, Study Finds

I'm sure I've commented before about the highly dubious priorities that neuroscience seems to have now, at least with regard to what they do with MRI scanners. This one for example:

Fifteen cloistered Carmelite nuns ranging from 23 to 64-years-old were subjected to an fMRI brain scan while asked to relive a mystical experience rather than actually try to achieve one. "I was obliged to do it this way seeing as the nuns are unable to call upon God at will," said Beauregard. This method was justified seeing as previous studies with actors asked to enter a particular emotional state activated the same brain regions as people actually living those emotions.

This study demonstrated that a dozen different regions of the brain are activated during a mystical experience. This type of research became very popular in the United States in the late 1990s. Some researchers went as far as suggesting the possibility of a specific brain region designed for communication with God. This latest research discredits such theories.

I find it hard to imagine that anyone would think that the essential nature of a mystical experience would be capable of being explained by watching such scans.

Psychologist Jerome Kagan was interviewed on ABC radio recently and made the point:

Well the brain is the foundation of all mental phenomenon but the vocabulary we use for the brain - neurons, circuits, transmitters - that's not the language of thought or feeling. And so mind got put in the background under the assumption that if - an assumption I disagree with - that if and when scientists can understand exactly what's going on in the brain then they'll be able to predict and know exactly what your thoughts, feelings and intentions are.

The rest of his interview, which covers quite a few areas of psychology, is interesting too.

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