This is Your Brain on Sex and Religion: Experiments in Neuroscience

If you attend­ed the recent Soci­ety for Neu­ro­science con­fer­ence, you had the chance to see some unprece­dent­ed 3D imag­ing of the brain — images that showed the exact order in which wom­en’s brain regions (80 in total) are acti­vat­ed in the sequence lead­ing to an orgasm. For Bar­ry Komis­aruk (pro­fes­sor of psy­chol­o­gy at Rut­gers Uni­ver­si­ty), this imag­ing isn’t gra­tu­itous. The whole point is to demys­ti­fy how the brain expe­ri­ences plea­sure, some­thing that could even­tu­al­ly inform our under­stand­ing of addic­tion and depres­sion. Komis­aruk said:

It’s a beau­ti­ful sys­tem in which to study the brain’s con­nec­tiv­i­ty. We expect that this movie [above], a dynam­ic rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the grad­ual buildup of brain activ­i­ty to a cli­max, fol­lowed by res­o­lu­tion, will facil­i­tate our under­stand­ing of patho­log­i­cal con­di­tions such as anor­gas­mia by empha­siz­ing where in the brain the sequen­tial process breaks down.

Mean­while, back at the neu­ro­science ranch, researchers are also using imag­ing tech­nol­o­gy to observe the human brain in anoth­er state, the state where peo­ple expe­ri­ence mys­ti­cal awak­en­ings dur­ing prayer and med­i­ta­tion or oth­er spir­i­tu­al epipha­nies. Sci­en­tif­ic Amer­i­can took a fair­ly deep look at this cut­ting-edge field sev­er­al years ago (read the full piece here), and now NPR has pro­duced a mul­ti­me­dia glimpse into the evolv­ing sci­ence of spir­i­tu­al­i­ty. The pre­sen­ta­tion (click here or the image above) com­bines audio, video, arti­cles, book excerpts, etc. and delves into the fun­da­men­tal ques­tion: Is God a delu­sion cre­at­ed by brain chem­istry, or is brain chem­istry a nec­es­sary con­duit for peo­ple to reach God?

If you want to learn more about the brain and neu­ro­science, don’t miss the cours­es list­ed in the Psychology/Neuroscience sec­tion of our big col­lec­tion of Free Online Cours­es.

Time and The Guardian have more on the first sto­ry above here and here.

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