For not too spiritual people, it's sometimes overwhelming to see people in churches and places of worship in deep emotions. It's normal to see people crying, singing out loud, shouting as they whole-heartedly glorify God. Perhaps, this is why experts studied the brain of a group of devout as they have the "feeling of spirit".
In a study lead by the senior author, neuroradiologist Jeffrey S. Anderson, they found out that the brain gets similar reactions of reward and pleasure when receiving the feeling of spirit. Researchers gathered 19 devout Mormons, where they performed brain scans, and handed out questionnaires as part of the study.
Brain activation associated with “feeling the Spirit” across multiple task paradigms. (a) Regions associated with the term “reward” in the functional neuroimaging literature. (b–d) Brain activation associated with “feeling the Spirit” while viewing quotations (b,d) or scriptural passages (c). Color scale shows t-statistic, with significant regions satisfying q < .05, False-discovery rate corrected. (e) Left and right nucleus accumbens activity before and after moments of strong spiritual feeling during audiovisual stimuli. Blue regions show p < 0.05 for activity greater than the mean. (c) tandfonline.com
MRI scans were performed at participants as activities evoking spiritual feelings happened. The scans showed that the similar regions in the brain activated when appreciating music, feeling loved, and winning at gambling, are stimulated when the participants had the "feeling of spirit".
"During subjective religious phenomena, coactivation of frontal attentional regions with nucleus accumbens may be a mechanism that amplifies the subjective intensity of euphoric feelings by focused attention and alertness," according to study
posted on journal, Social Neuroscience.
Though, religions have varying belief systems, experts believe that similar regions in the brains of different people with different religions are stimulated during the peak of emotions induced by spiritual activities.
According to researchers, the study's significance is to deeply understand religious beliefs, and get insight to the "evolution of complex religious systems".
There's still a missing piece of the puzzle that connects the relation of the human mind and spirit. However, this study is one of the many attempts to the middle ground of science and religion. Still and all, this study is a step closer to that goal.