Neuro-vahs Witness

A case study in slow developing tumors

If there is abnormal religiosity based on brain lesions, why would a “normal” religious experience mirror the abnormal? How one perceives psychotic episodes depends on the culture and where you were born.

“She reported to have committed self-injuries due to religious sacrifice and a thorough communication with divine voices. AVH (audio-visual hallucination) had first been noticed three years earlier in December 2012 and were considered to be “heavenly.” In the past, she had witnessed episodes of great spiritual interest and devotion starting at the age of 13 and reoccurring at ages 23, 32, and 41. During these episodes, she would join “Jehovah’s Witnesses” for 1–2 years and resign from them afterward because of a significant decrease of religiousness. Yet, she kept showing a higher-than-average devotion to spirituality”.

”Our patient was admitted to the inpatient department, where she presented a psychotic syndrome with grandiose (religious) delusions and extensive tension as well as a distinct feeling of blessedness. At the same time, she showed psychomotor retardation and blocking of formal thoughts” (1)

“A recent study even demonstrated that both religiousness and spirituality may be manipulated through transcranial theta burst stimulation of the right inferior parietal lobe” (2)

And…depending on where you were born—It may be common for psychiatric patients who are Muslim to attribute their hallucinations or other symptoms to “jinn,” the invisible, devilish creatures in Islamic mythology, researchers in the Netherlands have found.

“The findings demonstrate one way in which culture may influence how people perceive their psychotic symptoms, and could help Western psychiatrists better understand patients who have an Islamic background. (3)

Near miss by a space laser

Author: jim-

One minute info blogs breaking the faith trap.

18 thoughts on “Neuro-vahs Witness”

  1. (1) Hypoxia could open the inquiry to NDE (near-death experience)…a very complex and rich topic. I would not be so haughty about this if I were you.
    (2) You made me smile Nan.
    (3) Tildeb your sarcasm is unbecoming of your intellect. It’s not about some mysterious balance of thinking and non-thinking. It’s the fact that you, sir, are incapable of not thinking. I assert that you couldn’t not-think even if you tried.

    Try this: sit calmly with eyes closed. Count your breaths from 1 to 10 and then back from 10 to 1.
    – “In-breath one…out-breath one…
    – “In-breath two…out-breath two…
    Whenever you have an interrupting thought, start the count over at one. If you manage to accomplish this task (1 to ten and back with no interruptions), I will humbly apologize to you. However if you don’t manage to accomplish this simple task, you will need to admit that you are not in charge of your mind. This simple experiment is an entry point to vast realizations that no one will ever learn from peer-reviewed neuroscience papers or from terabytes of fMRI scans.
    (4) Keep up the good work everyone. I will likely disappear for a while as I focus on my meditation practices.


  2. tildeb you sound glorious. But I suspect you are the type of person who thinks too much.

    Yes, the vast majority of experiences while in the physical body are connected with neural activity. Yes if somebody pokes my temporal lobe I will smell burnt toast. But no this is not the whole story.

    I suspect that neuroscience will eventually confirm my assertion. But this will take a long time. It would be better and faster (and it would cost less research funds) if you performed your own experiments in consciousness by allowing your own consciousness to turn in upon itself via meditation. There are experiences awaiting you that defy current understanding. If you cling exclusively to science you will risk losing those gems within. That would leave you with a scientifically self-consistent and yet tragically self-fulfilling situation.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your reasoning still works if you change the term ‘science’ to ‘oxygen’ and then go without it; it’s amazing what ‘revealing’ experiences hypoxia will yield, too – defying all current understanding, donchaknow – so it must be a legitimate shortcut to ‘inner knowledge’.


      1. Good grief. Thinking too much… what a zinger! After all, not thinking enough is SO preferable.

        Oh, wait… that can’t be right because some thinking has to be done. So I’m almost sure someone like spiritnerd42 or Nan will tell me where the right balance is… because, unlike me, they’ve already thought just enough – but not TOO much, apparently – to know where this right balance is.


        Liked by 2 people

          1. It’s not a jab; it’s an ad hominem targeted at dismissing reason and facts as unimportant. It’s not amusing; it’s strictly an insult.

            The three pound organ between the ears uses 20% of the body’s energy output for a reason. Reducing that energy consumption – which is what meditation does with certain known physiological benefits – to create wiggle room for thinking woo is a reasonable alternative is hardly a plan for gaining insight into anything. Rather, it’s a recipe for being open minded enough for one’s brains to fall out.

            Liked by 1 person

  3. I appreciate the passion for science in this group. But this conversation is rife with the syllogistic error of ‘affirming the consequent.’ Showing that there exist neuronal correlates of experience does not prove that 100% of all experience is solely the result of neuronal activity. More broadly, this is connected to the underlying conceptual platform which most atheists hold: that of materialistic reductionism. But many atheists forget that this is a hypothesis, or a set of hypotheses that includes the notion that consciousness is merely the result of neuronal activity. In other words, you folks are your own self-fulfilling prophesy. The tragedy is that you are talented and insightful people. You have integrity. These are spiritual forces. These things too will probably become associated with neuronal activity. But they also include aspects that are far beyond the capabilities of the neuronal abacus. Sorry to be so blunt but the deeper issue here is that you are caught in the ordinary discursive mind. This is one of the lowest layers of human consciousness. If you were to find a good meditation teacher and practice diligently for a year or perhaps less, I suspect that most of you would have profound spiritual experiences. You would instantly lose any desire to undertake mental processing that fortifies the blindness and the delusion of the ordinary mind. And I say that as one who fully appreciates the amazing abilities of the ordinary mind.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “Showing that there exist neuronal correlates of experience does not prove that 100% of all experience is solely the result of neuronal activity.”

      That’s not what’s being shown at all. Mind you (excuse the pun), this kind of statement sounds good, sounds insightful, sounds corrective, but it is actually a tactic to completely avoid the very strong evidence for adducing causation. (And the key term revealing the tactic to claim syllogism is ‘prove’. That is a misrepresentation of what is being investigated and how.)

      In fact, casual evidence to be causal is NOT a syllogism because there are no premises from which to then draw the conclusion that brain activity causes experience. In fact, there’s evidence that is followed, reverse tested, and a conclusion adduced, which is then tested by application to see if the causal connection holds. In other words, this neural activity can be shown to be causal to experience. Most neuroscientists are well aware of having to differentiate correlation from causation and expect severe peer rebuke if they fail this basic task. In other words, your presumption is incorrect and so your conclusion is invalid.

      If you wish to demonstrate this causal claim to be incorrect (and everyone is welcome to try to do exactly this), you have to demonstrate why the causal evidence is only correlational AND why the applications of the adduced conclusion still work based on this supposed correlational data.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. It makes perfect sense that psychotics would interpret their hallucinations through the lens of their cultural background. How could they not? Even if their family wasn’t religious, the society around them almost certainly was.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Much of the evidence often touted by religious believers – usually through testimonials – has a significant neurological connection (for lack of a better word). This means a neurological event is interpreted by the person experiencing something to be subject to something from ‘out there’ affecting something ‘in here’. Presto! ‘Evidence’ of an unseen presence interacting with a person accompanied by significant elevation in emotional response. This heightened response makes it a meaningful experience (that’s how we encode memory, by how important it is to us; importance is demonstrated by higher or lower emotional response). When the same experiences can be caused by magnetic interference in the identified brain regions, we have good reasons to doubt the interpretation of a real event from ‘out there’ is accurate.

    We know, for example, that meditation and prayer reduces both blood flow and activity in very specific parts of one hemisphere of the brain, which is well known to cause an emotional response widely reported as ‘quieting’ and ‘calming’, causing the more active side of the brain – the other hemisphere – greater dominance in ‘viewing’ the effects – almost like a dispassionate third party – of what the experience going on ‘over there’ with the reduced brain activity. Meaning is then applied to the experienced effects by the non-dominant brain hemisphere.

    Because the brain itself is central to what we call these interpretations, namely, religious experiences – even if artificially induced by actions, drugs, damage, or interference – we have allowed a special exemption not just in neuroscience generally but throughout medicine to privilege them as something more than what they are and not subject to the same dispassionate rigor of open inquiry. For example, in the DSM-V (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual fifth edition – the ‘bible’ for medical diagnosis) all kinds of psychoses listing signs and symptoms of particular ones magically evaporate as psychological symptoms of a brain ailment and/or impediment if they are connected in some way to the subject’s religious belief! Poof! No longer a psychosis but another ‘testimonial’ of religious ‘evidence’!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Testimonial in essence is relying on the brains failures and blind spots.
      A couple years ago we discussed this ‘elevation in emotional response’ and norepinephrines role in enhancing the memory of a traumatic event or recovery. It’s very complex but can be broken down bit by bit to reveal that without them, there is no spiritual conviction, passion, anchoring biases, nothing. It’s all in there and regulated by what external stimuli impresses it.

      Liked by 1 person

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