Turns out the other “G-spot” is a myth.
Researchers at the University of Missouri have found that the so-called “God spot,” an epicenter of the brain responsible for feelings of spirituality and connection to a higher power, doesn’t exist. Their study instead shows that several regions of the human mind work together to produce religious experiences and the desire to connect with an omnipotent creator.
“Spirituality is a much more dynamic concept that uses many parts of the brain,” said Brick Johnstone, professor of health psychology at the university and the report’s prime author. “Certain parts of the brain play more predominant roles, but they all work together to facilitate individuals’ spiritual experiences.”
To form their conclusions, Mr. Johnstone and his colleagues studied 20 people with traumatic brain injuries that affected their right parietal lobes and found that they were much more likely to feel “closeness to a higher power.”
Impairment of the right side of the brain, the report says, decreases feelings of selfishness, often sparking spiritual quests. It also can cause people to focus less on themselves and more on the well-beings of others, a cornerstone of virtually all major religions.
Christian doctors and scientists generally support that type of research, but some fear that Mr. Johnstone and others often overlook the concept of free will. Scripture teaches that God offers grace to all who want it, but forces no one to accept it.
“From my point of view, in Christianity, there are a lot of decisions involved. Being selfless is a decision,” said Chris Mathes, a neuroscientist and co-organizer of the Christian Neuroscience Society. Mr. Mathes, like other members of the 2-decades-old society, is also a vocal believer in God and a practicing Christian.
“The ability to be good is given by God, but it’s a choice that we make. It isn’t forced upon us,” he said. “I’m always very skeptical about making big leaps from some observation in the human brain to a behavior,” such as compassion for others or a proclivity to break the law.
The Missouri study also found a strong correlation between increased activity in the brain’s frontal lobe and participation in religious services, such as a Catholic Mass. Spiritual experiences at those services, the survey shows, are results of strong stimulation of that part of the mind.
Few in the scientific Christian community dispute the notion that their spirituality produces noticeable reactions inside the head, but, for some, the line is crossed when it is suggested that certain people are predestined to believe in God because of the framework of their brains.
“I’m not sensing a lot of controversy here, unless people start to say that you believe the way you believe because you’re wired that way, that it’s all biomechanical stuff,” said Dr. William J. Bicket, a North Carolina surgeon and a member of the Christian Medical and Dental Association. “That’s when you get into another issue, which is free choice. If I’m not responsible for my drug use, for the murder of someone else, because I’m just wired that way, I’m concerned about that” school of thought.
Some also have speculated that the brain injuries sustained by the 20 subjects in the Missouri study may have simply returned them to a childlike state of open-mindedness, where adult skepticism, or hostility toward faith, is greatly diminished.
“There might be some inhibition as adults that gets released because of that brain injury,” Mr. Mathes said. “Kids can be more open to spiritual things. There may be some built-in prejudices built into the brain” as we grow older.
Previous research also has supported the idea that multiple areas of the brain come together to form one’s spiritual identity. Certain parts, other studies have suggested, produce the intense emotions often felt during prayer or religious gatherings.
But when it comes to grasping the concept of God, human beings use the same functions they would to understand another earthly person, said Jordan Grafman, director of traumatic brain injury research at the Kessler Foundation.