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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