A research study of MRIs shows that spiritual experience lights up the brain.
Religious and spiritual experiences activate the brain reward circuits in much the same way as other strong stimuli as love, drugs and music.
Based on MRI scans, the researchers found that powerful spiritual feelings were reproducibly associated with activation in the critical brain regions for processing reward.
When study participants were instructed to think about a savior, about being with their families for eternity, about their heavenly rewards, scans showed that their brains and bodies physically responded.
In addition to the brain’s reward circuits, the researchers found that spiritual feelings were associated with brain regions that are activated by tasks involving valuation, judgment and moral reasoning. Spiritual feelings also activated brain regions associated with focused attention.
The study is the first initiative of the Religious Brain Project which aims to understand how the brain operates in people with deep spiritual and religious beliefs.