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|Title||:||The Neural Correlates of Religious and Nonreligious Belief|
|Author||:||Sam Harris, Jonas T. Kaplan|
|Publisher||:||Public Library of Science|
|Number of Pages||:||9|
|Category||:||Religion, Science, Neuroscience, Non fiction, Philosophy, Psychology, Atheism, Brain|
PDF, EPUB, MOBI, TXT, DOC The Neural Correlates of Religious and Nonreligious Belief ABSTRACT from a href http www plosone org article info Adoi F Fjournal pone top rel nofollow the full study a .
While religious faith remains one of the most significant features of human life little is known about its relationship to ordinary belief at the level of the brain Nor is it known whether religious believers and nonbelievers differ in how they evaluate statements of fact Our lab previously has used functional neuroimaging to study belief as a general mode of cognition and others have looked specifically at religious belief However no research has compared these two states of mind directly Methodology Principal Findings .
We used functional magnetic resonance imaging fMRI to measure signal changes in the brains of thirty subjects fifteen committed Christians and fifteen nonbelievers as they evaluated the truth and falsity of religious and nonreligious propositions For both groups and in both categories of stimuli belief judgments of true vs judgments of false was associated with greater signal in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex an area important for self representation emotional associations reward and goal driven behavior This region showed greater signal whether subjects believed statements about God the Virgin Birth etc or statements about ordinary facts A comparison of both stimulus categories suggests that religious thinking is more associated with brain regions that govern emotion self representation and cognitive conflict while thinking about ordinary facts is more reliant upon memory retrieval networks .
Conclusions Significance .
While religious and nonreligious thinking differentially engage broad regions of the frontal parietal and medial temporal lobes the difference between belief and disbelief appears to be content independent Our study compares religious thinking with ordinary cognition and as such constitutes a step toward developing a neuropsychology of religion However these findings may also further our understanding of how the brain accepts statements of all kinds to be valid descriptions of the world .
Author Contributions .
Conceived and designed the experiments Sam Harris Jonas T Kaplan Marco Iacoboni Mark S Cohen Performed the experiments Jonas T Kaplan Analyzed the data Sam Harris Jonas T Kaplan Marco Iacoboni Mark S Cohen Contributed reagents materials analysis tools Marco Iacoboni Mark S Cohen Wrote the paper Sam Harris Jonas T Kaplan Performed all subject recruitment telephone screenings and psychometric assessments prior to scanning Ashley Curiel Supervised our psychological assessment procedures and consulted on subject exclusions Susan Y Bookheimer Gave extensive notes on the manuscript Mark S Cohen Marco Iacoboni