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Why God Won't Go Away: Brain Science & The Biology of Hope - A look at the neural biological similarity of deep inner experiences between Tibetan Buddhist and Franciscan nuns. The authors find that for all practical purposes the neural activity is the same therefore, the authors believe, humans are hard wired for such experiences. Humanity must have a robust, persistant, and common desire for contact with the spiritual, regardless of religious affiliation.

Here's the authors writing about a test with Robert, an experienced meditator:

"...The proper name (of a) highly specialized bundle of neurons is the posterior superior parietal lobe, but for the purposes of this book, Gene and I have dubbed it the orientation association area, or OAA.

The primary job of the OAA is to orient the individual in physical space---it keeps track of which end is up, helps us judge angles and distances, and allows us to negotiate safely...

So, not surprisingly, the baseline SPECT scans of Robert's brain taken before his meditation, while he was in a normal state of mind, show many areas of Robert's brain, including the orientation area, to be centers of furious neurological activity. This activity appears on the scans in vibrant bursts of brillant reds and yellows.

The scans taken at the peak of Robert's meditative state, however, show the orientation area to be bathed in dark blotches of cool greens and blues---colors that indicate a sharp reduction in activity levels.

This finding intrigued us. We know that the orientation area never rests, so what could account for this unusual drop in activity levels in this small section of the brain?

What would happen if the OAA had no information upon which to work? we wondered. Would it continue to search for the limits of the self? With no information flowing in from the senses, the OAA wouldn't be able to find any boundaries. What would the brain make of that? ...the brain would have no choice but to perceive that the self is endless and intimately interwoven with everyone and everything the mind senses. And this perception would feel utterly and unquestionably real."

Newberg, Andrew, Eugene D'Aquili, & Vince Rause, (New York: Ballatine Books, 2002). pps.234.

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